I have quite a long post today but it’s for an amazing book that I really didn’t want to put down and that is unusual for me. Read on for a guest post on researching the book and my review of this stunning and thought-provoking story.
From the Blurb:
Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …
Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it.
Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.
Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the house leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …
Guest post by AnneMarie Brear
For some years I have had a fascination of what is known as the First World War, or the Great War. (World War I 1914 – 1918)
This was a time of enormous change in the world. For the first time countries banded together to fight a common enemy. I’ll not go into the politics of the time or the reasons why the war happened, that is for professional historians to determine, but the effects of the war were far reaching, particularly in Europe.
In Great Britain the changes impacted on all walks of life, from the wealthy to the poor. Women were asked to step into the space left behind by the men who went to war. Not only did they have to work the men’s jobs, but they also had to keep the home running as well. Not an easy task to a female population who was expected to simply marry and have children and keep a nice house. Women of that time were sheltered from the world, innocent. All that was soon to change.
In my book, Where Dragonflies Hover, modern woman, Lexi, finds a diary written by an Australian nurse, Allie.
Allie wrote about her time as a nurse in Great War, and of falling in love with Danny, an English officer. She wrote of her struggles to help injured and dying men who came to her straight from the battlefield, covered in mud and blood.
To write Allie’s story I had to do a lot of research about World War I. I enjoy researching, and because the Edwardian Era is one of my favourite eras, it was no hardship to spend hours reading sources from that time. I really wanted to make Allie’s story as real as it could be. One of my research sources was reading, The Other Anzacs by Peter Rees. A truly extraordinary book detailing the true stories of Australian nurses in WWI. A lot of my inspiration came from that book. What those nurses went through was simply remarkable.
Another book I read was The Roses of No Man’s Landby Lyn MacDonald. Another interesting account of what the allied nurses and VADs from other countries went through. These women went from the comfort and security of their homes to the heart of battle zones. They had to learn new skills swiftly, for even dedicated career nurses had never experienced before the types injuries and wounds they encountered only miles from the front line. Those women had to sustain difficulties they never thought of, for example at times they were food shortages, hygiene hardships, danger from bombings, homesickness and many more problems. Yet, these women, some just young girls, dutifully headed into an alien world without the promise of survival.
It is, of course, impossible for me, or anyone, to know exactly how these women felt during this challenging time, we can only read about their experiences. However, simply reading about them is enough for me to give them my heartfelt gratitude and admiration for what they endured.
I hope I did justice to their stories, to what they gave up and for the sacrifices they made to help us win the war.
My Rating: 4.5/5
Review: I don’t read many stories that jump time periods and even less that involve war so with that information you may wonder why I chose to read this? Basically it appealed to me because of the story, I have always loved old buildings particularly castles and houses so the house was something that interested me. Also although I tend to avoid war stories and films, though not all, this is a was story from the perspective of a nurse and that is something I have not encountered before. These aspects piqued my interest and so I decided to take a chance on the book and I was not disappointed.
Despite the fact that I avoid war stories where possible I do know a fair bit about WW1 and the horrors that faced the soldiers there so when I was reading Allie’s thoughts and experiences of dealing with soldiers covered in mud and her observations of trees that were blown up I was not surprised. However, what was new was the way in which this information was conveyed. The story was written in such a way that I felt like a fly on the wall, I was completely immersed in what Allie was seeing and experiencing but was completely safe from any of the dangers that she faced. I know this was an accurate but fictional account of someone but it honestly felt like I was reading someone’s actual diary. I have been having some difficulties of my own recently and this story reminded me of the real struggles that people faced in that war including not knowing if they would even live to see the end of the day. Reading that helped me realise that my problems, while important were not as bad as they could be and that was incredibly helpful for me.
I didn’t like Lexi quite as much as I did Allie. She was still a well-written and believable character but some of the things she did irritated me a little so I enjoyed the periods when she was reading the diary a little more than I enjoyed reading about her. Her story is interesting and equally realistic and I loved the fact that she wanted to buy the house and save it from ruin and development for profit but Allie’s was the stronger story for me and the one I was drawn to most.
Reading this book has made me want to read more about nurses and people other than soldiers in WW1 because their stories tend to be the one’s less focused on but for me are the one’s I want to know more about. In the guest post the author mentions a book she read for research, The Other Anzacs and I think that is an excellent place for me to start as well.
It’s been a while since I’ve said this but this is a book I would highly recommend to anyone whether it is their usual reading taste or not. I wasn’t disappointed and I don’t think you will be either.
Annemarie Brear has been a life-long reader and started writing in 1997 when her children were small. She has a love of history, of grand old English houses and a fascination of what might have happened beyond their walls. Her interests include reading, genealogy, watching movies, spending time with family and eating chocolate – not always in that order!