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. This utterly delightful novel brings a London pre-war hospital vividly to life.
Sissy: Take the BBC’s “Call The Midwife”, move the nurses to various floors of a pre-WWII London hospital and you’ve got The Nightingale Girls. This is a good thing. I just finished watching Season 4 of “Call The Midwife” and absolutely loved it, so it was easy for me to have the TV version of The Nightingale Girls playing through my head as I read it. You’d be surprised at how much drama and intrigue can go on in a 1930’s hospital setting — not quite ER or Gray’s Anatomy but still intriguing, funny and heartwarming.
Bubby: I have never seen “Call The Midwife” but if it’s anywhere as good as this novel, I’m in! I loved the differences between the three girls, all sharing a room whilst training to become nurses. Dora is trying so hard to rise above her upbringing (and her miserable lecherous sad-excuse-of-a-man stepfather) and Millie wants to escape her aristocratic responsibilities. And poor Helen just wants to be able to choose something, anything, for herself instead of constantly having to please her harridan of a mother. They are an unlikely trio and don’t get on well at all at first, but in the end, they make peace with each other. The play between the three adds so much life and color to this story. It was just wonderful. Oh, and even though I had no desire to enter the healthcare industry prior to reading The Nightingale Girls, now I REALLY don’t want to be a nurse. Nope. Never. Uh-uh.
Sissy: Yep. I was almost a nurse. Then I got to student nursing in post-op and discovered that I am nothing like Florence Nightingale. I’m more like the agoraphobic cat lady across the street who wants NOTHING to do with your personal business! While Florence is probably in heaven, I guess that tells you where I’m going! But back to the story. It leads off with Dora, whose story is amazing, and ends with all three girls having quashed certain demons and found very satisfying life pathways.
Bubby: And romance! There’s some romance too! Good, parent-thwarting, “I will die if I can’t have that man!” romance! Loved it! (Of course, if it was MY kid who was involved in a parent-thwarting soul searing romance it’d be a whole different story. But this is fiction so it’s okay.)
Sissy: Sometimes when you read about these parents who engage in such life-hindering behaviors, you think, “There can’t possibly be parents who behave this way!” but after having surgery last week and watching 59 episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, I can say that there are definitely horrid mothers who deserve to be exposed on national TV. The Nightingale Girls is the first in a series of books (so far, four novels and a short Christmas story) which are all available as e-books now in the U.S. (you can only get them in book form in the U.K.). I shall be reading all of them. You should too. 4 bubbles.
Bubby: So now not only do I have to go watch 4 seasons of “Call the Midwife”, but I also have a whole stack of Nightingale books that I must read. Oh, my life is so terribly difficult… 4 perfectly sterilized, pristine, health-inducing bubbles from me.
Click HERE to buy The Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas at Amazon.com
We received a copy of this title from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
© Bubble Bath Books 2014