The second installment in a series that carries (for me) the feeling of Call The Midwife and Downton Abbey, both BBC productions. We have met the ladies in the first book, the three young women from various levels of society: Dora, Millie and Helen, although Helen does take a bit of a backseat to a new Night Nurse with issues and secrets of her own.
If you are familiar with the first book, Nightingale Girls, you will know that Dora’s family life is a struggle. Little money, less possibility for upward mobility, Dora is the most determined of the three, and she also has the most difficulty in processing and prioritizing her own needs when her family is in such dire straits.
Millie is the aristo, and while I expected a touch more of her ‘devil may care’ approach to her studies and the challenges, she is far more grown up: as clearly delineated by her questioning all she had been raised to believe, and worrying if her engagement is the best choice. Helen is still about, although more emphasis is spent in dissection and discussion about William from Millie, who still holds a crush on her friend’s brother despite an engagement.
Conflict and societal change is brought forward in this book with the Blackshirt Uprisings, a group of British Fascists who bring their own brand of hatreds, racism and societal inequities to light in a time when Britain is already facing wholesale changes. While not specifically delving into the fascist movement, the shockwaves of the protests are sure to effect the hospital and these 3 student nurses.
Douglas delves deeper into the hospital hierarchy and the girls’ reliance, avoidance or complaints about various Sisters (those of higher ranking) who are both teaching, supervising and training them as they learn to become fully-fledged nursing sisters. While the medical processes and procedures are not paramount, the insets and accuracy with which Douglas presents the information makes it an interesting side note, and adds to the feel of the time and, when considered with modern sensibilities, primitive approaches and tools.
We get to meet a Night Sister, Violet, who has a secret to keep and the lives, fears, hopes and despairs of the characters: all the characters are clearly presented in a way that keeps you reading on. Narrative voices change to present points of view from each character, and it feels very natural while adding to your own knowledge and insight into each character. While there are some elusions to sex and domestic violence, the actual action is “off screen” and we are simply treated to the aftermath, both in description and outcome.
Part romance, part adventure, and wholly engaging, this is a series not to be missed, and is best read in series order.
Title: The Nightingale Sisters
Author: Donna Douglas
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
Published by: Random House, UK - North America
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 13 Hours: 21 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Downpour
To the student nurses at The Nightingale hospital, the ward sisters are heartless and frightening, with impossibly high standards. But the sisters have troubles of their own...
The new night sister is not all that she seems. Who is she and what dark secret is she hiding? As the mystery deepens, Sister Wren is determined to find out the truth.
The student nurse is struggling with her own secret, and with her heartbreak over Nick, the man who got away. A new arrival on the ward brings the chance to put a smile back on her face. But can she really get over Nick so easily?
Dora's fellow student is also torn between the two men in her life. But then an unexpected friendship with an elderly patient makes her question where her heart - and her future - really lies.
As the nation mourns the death of King George V, it seems as if nothing is ever going to be the same again, especially for the women at the Nightingale.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.