Brought to you by OBS reviewer Valerie
A vivid and compelling story of love, war and secrets, set against the backdrop of WWI France. ‘In the beginning, it was the summers I remembered – long warm days under the palest blue skies, the cornflowers and forget-me-nots lining the road through the Lys forest, the buzz of insects going about their work, Violet telling me lies.’ 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 an invitation comes for Iris through the post to a reunion in France, where she served in a hospital during WWI. Determined to go, Iris is overcome by the memories of the past, when as a shy, naive young woman she followed her fifteen-year-old brother, Tom, to France in 1914 intending to bring him home. On her way to find Tom, Iris comes across the charismatic Miss Ivens, who is setting up a field hospital in the old abbey of Royaumont, north of Paris. Putting her fears aside, Iris decides to stay at Royaumont, and it is there 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 when the ultimate tragedy happens, there is a terrible price that Iris has to pay, a price that will echo down the generations. A moving and uplifting novel about the small, unsung acts of heroism of which love makes us capable. (Goodreads)
I normally don’t read books like this. By “this” I mean stories about war and love and secrets. You see, it’s just too cool for a girl like me. Way too sophisticated. Translation: I am not a perfect match for books about war or love. I also can not stand books with absurdly long summaries. (Sorry!)
The characters are all brilliant. They are well-written characters, all with secrets. It’s at times hard to keep them all in your head (only so much my brain can handle….) but that’s okay. It’s nicer to be able to read about all these characters rather than not have any interesting characters at all.
It’s incredibly harrowing, this novel. I hate how sad it is, but that’s the point of the novel. To make you cry. To make you weep. To make you realize that there ARE second chances and there ARE ways to be forgiven and that nothing is what it seems.
It’s a thought-provoking book. It’s quite good.