Iris is getting old. A widow, her days are spent living quietly and worrying about her granddaughter, Grace, a headstrong young doctor.
It's a small sort of life. But one day Iris receives something unexpected in the post - an invitation to a WWI reunion in France.
Determined to go, Iris is overcome by memories of the past and of her journey to France in 1914, where she followed her young brother Tom, intending to bring him home to safety. But on her way to find Tom, Iris discovers the old abbey of Royaumont, where a group of women work to set up a field hospital.
Putting her fears aside, Iris decides to stay and help.
It is at Royaumont that she truly comes of age, finding her capability and her strength, discovering her passion for medicine, making friends with the vivacious Violet and falling in love.
But war is a brutal thing, and there is a terrible price that Iris has to pay - a price that will echo down the generations.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 447 pages
- Publisher: Allison & Busby
- Publication Date: 25/03/2013
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780749013332
Showing 1 - 1 of 1 reviews.
Review by AdonisGuilfoyle
A beautiful, lyrical, emotional novel set during the First World War. Australian nurse Iris Crane travels to France to find her young brother, who has joined up to fight for the British. A chance meeting in Paris with Frances Ivens of the Scottish Women's Hospitals leads Iris to help with establishing Royaumont Abbey, a military hospital for French soldiers close to the front. At Royaumont, Iris becomes good friends with ambulance driver Violet Heron, falls for an enigmatic French doctor, and manages to locate her errant baby brother - but the war changes all her plans for the future. Offset against Iris' life in France is the story of Grace, Iris' granddaughter, another medical woman struggling with decisions made in the past and the implications for her family in the years to come.Apart from the twist at the end, which I felt was unnecessary, I was absolutely bowled over by Mary-Rose MacColl's novel. Iris, Grace, Violet, and even the fictional representation of the real-life Miss Frances Ivens, are such strong yet sympathetic characters, living their lives and doing what they believe to be for the best. The author pulls no punches with depictions of the war and the devastation wreaked in the trenches and at home, and her prose is poetic without turning purple. Female doctors like Miss Ivens really risked life and reputation to set up a womens' hospital in the thirteenth century abbey, and Mary Rose MacColl's poignant embroidery around the truth of their bravery and compassion brings the past to life in a way that non-fiction accounts cannot.Readers who enjoyed Jojo Moyes' novel <i>The Girl You Left Behind</i> will love this First World War counterpart.