Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas

4 Star

Three very different girls sign up as student nurses in 1936, while England is still mourning the death of George V. Dora is a tough East Ender, driven by ambition, but also desperate to escape her squalid, overcrowded home and her abusive stepfather. Helen is the quiet one, a mystery to her fellow nurses, avoiding fun, gossip and the limelight. In fact she is in the formidable shadow of her overbearing mother, who dominates every aspect of her life. Can a nursing career free Helen at last? The third of our heroines is naughty, rebellious Millie an aristocrat on the run from her conventional upper class life. She is doomed to clash over and over again with terrifying Sister Hyde and to get into scrape after scrape especially where men are concerned.  

Kathryn - 4 Star

This novel would make a great dramatic television series!   The novel centers around three trainee nurses of the Nightingale hospital and Douglas has brought to life not only the girls but the hospital in an admirable way.

The story was gently written and its style reminded me a bit of the novels by Lyn Andrews and Pamela Evans in that there were strong women moving through life in a world not yet open to women doing so.  I found the interactions softly spoken which created a sense of calm in an otherwise chaotic place.  The hospital training of nurses in the 1930’s was not something I’d ever really spent much time thinking about so I gobbled up all the information Douglas gave us about the girls’ lives and how they managed to learn and take the patient’s care as their primary concern while living in uncomfortable surroundings.  It seems as if they were treated mostly as misbehaving school girls (and I suppose some of them were only in their late teens) – they were constantly being watched like hawks by the matrons and ward sisters so it must have been hard to handle for some of them!  

I appreciated also that Douglas gave us enough of the main characters’ home lives to develop a sense of each woman and where they had come from. Dora, Helen and Millie obviously have started life very differently and without the interwoven backstory we would never have become so attached to each of them.

I have read that Douglas was asked originally to create a series based on nurses in the 1930’s-  I’m hoping she will do.

Thank you to RandomHouse UK for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Donna Douglas here:

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