The Nightingale Girls, Paperback

The Nightingale Girls Paperback

Part of the Nightingales series

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


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.



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Review by

Nightingale Girls is the story of three very different girls who have signed up as student nurses at the best program in England in 1936. England is in between the World Wars and is mourning the death of the popular King George V. It's a time of transition for the country, medicine and the hospital.Dora is an East Ender with a strong cockney accent, a large family living in an overcrowded and squalid home. She's very close to her mother, siblings and grandmother but is trying to stand up to her abusive stepfather. The chance to get into the nursing program gives her a chance for her own vocation, as well as a life of her own and an escape from an intolerable home situation.Her roommate Millie comes from the opposite end of the social spectrum. An aristocrat whose best friend is a Duke's daughter, Millie has chosen a very different path. Millie is the only child of a wealthy lord and the estate is entailed; Millie must marry and have a son to keep the estate in the immediate family (something we've all become familiar with particularly after Downton Abbey). Millie loves her home and does want to keep it but she's not ready to marry and live a sheltered life. Instead, Millie works hard to earn her nursing credentials. But when Millie works hard, she doesn't give up her social life - so she's often still sneaking into their shared room past curfew.The third roommate, Helen, comes from a medical family and has strong ties to the hospital. Her mother is the most outspoken trustee at the hospital and interferes with the way that it is run. Her mother has problems with boundaries in general and a tendency to bully whomever she can. Helen is particularly vulnerable since she tries so hard to live up to her mother's unrealistic expectations. The three roommates are each sympathetic and deeply likable characters working through tough situations. Dora is expected to have a hard time adjusting. It's clear that though she's scared and nervous about being so different from her privileged colleagues, Dora does continue to speak her mind. Dora isn't willing to accept charity or help, which makes things difficult - I kept hoping that she'd just accept a loan for her medical books! But Dora makes her own way. Millie's so glamorous, it's a surprise to find out just how empathetic she is. Out of all the nursing students, it's Millie that sees Dora's situation and notices the patient, Blanche, that the others seem to ostracize. Millie reaches out and befriends them and genuinely cares - just as she avoids the social climbing characters that she meets along the way. But Millie's taste in men doesn't seem to be as good as her ability to read women - which makes for some tough moments and fun reading. Helen has a tough path as well as she's isolated from the other nursing students and tries to please her difficult mother. In her daily letters to her mother, she tries win her approval but also keep some things private. It's the struggle to keep her own secrets that leads to Helen's troubles. Donna Douglas's Nightingale Girls reminds me a bit of Call the Midwife as the girls have to follow the structures and schedules of British nursing students. In 1936, the Nightingale Girls are younger, students not nursing sisters and they live during a more restrictive time. But their concerns, their struggles and friendships are just as fascinating as the characters we've come to love in Call the Midwife. ISBN-10: 0099569353 - HardcoverPublisher: Arrow (September 10, 2012), 512 pages.Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

Review by

It is 1930s in the East End of London and the reader is introduced to three very different girls who begin a three year nursing program at the exclusive Nightingale Hospital.The characters were great and the plot was both interesting and a page turner. The book is sort of like a soap opera with all sorts of drama happening in each girl's life, but it was just the book I was in the mood for.I enjoyed watching Call the Midwife on tv and this book is similar in that it involves the lives of young women just starting out in life and trying to find their way.I definitely would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys period dramas. I am very eager to read all the books in the series. So looking forward to what happens to each character and how they develop in each book. I received a complimentary copy from