I admit that my brain does take leaps that other people may not follow. I was thinking about holidays and singing a Bruce Cockburn song today when I took the leap to the subject nurses (“Lovers in a dangerous time” + Victoria Day = Victorian order of nurses = blog on fictional nurses during wars).
Now I admire nurses; they are always the frontline person and provide the practical application of the medical field. Doctors are so busy that they have to rely on their staff’s medical and personality skills to help their practice run smoothly. It is doubly so when it comes to nursing during war time. Here are some fictional accounts that show examples of this.
Lipstick in Afghanistan (M) is Roberta Gately’s debut novel. The novel is inspired by Gately’s own experiences as a nurse in third world war zones. Nurse Elsa was an ER Nurse in South Boston. But even the violence she witnessed there could not prepare her for the devastation she experiences in a small medical clinic in Bamiyan. But a tube of lipstick she found in her older sister’s bureau never fails to raise her spirits. It is with this lipstick and her determination she travels alone to war-torn Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. It is another tube of lipstick that he finds in the aftermath of a bus bombing that leads her to a life changing friendship with Parween. These two women’s story and struggle is a tribute to friendship and a reminder of the cost of war.
Chickahominy Fever: a Civil War mystery (M) by Ann McMillan. Chickahominy Fever is better known as malaria and this is just one emergencies that Nurse Narcissa Powers has to deal with. I don’t know about you but whenever I think of medicine being practiced at that time I think of amputations, blood and muddy fields. McMillan has written a wonderful cast of characters and has woven in interesting historical details. Nurse Power is busy trying to find the body of a missing confederate soldier while Judith Daniel, a free black herbalist searches for the mother of an abandoned infant. Amongst these puzzles there is a missing letter from Jefferson Davis home detailing military strategy and pressuring President Lincoln to freeing the slaves. McMillan is wonderful in historical details and mystery and this makes the novel even more enjoyable.
Face of the Enemy (M) is the first in the series New York in Wartime by award winning Joanne Dobson and takes place in WWII New York City. Nurse Louise Hunter is faced by wartime racism when the wife of her patient is rounded up by the FBI. The FBI sweep through the prominent Japanese society after the attack on Pearl Harbour. This novel is much more than a whodunit. It is a historical profile of a city and a nation, a cultural insight of the plight of a Japanese immigrant woman and a page turner as well. It touches both the mind and the heart of the reader as the characters are so interesting. I am sure that this is just the beginning of a successful series for this author.
A Farewell to Arms (M) by Ernest Hemingway takes place during World War I. It is a first person account of the Italian Campaign. I battled with myself about including this book in this blog since the main character is not the nurse but as it is such a famous novel, I gave in to the urge to include it. American Frederic Henry falls in love with English nurse Catherine Barkley against the background of battles, soldiers and displaced natives. The battles are not just on the field. The couple have to battle for their love. The novel is based on Hemingway’s own military background while serving in the Italian campaign. The character of Catherine was inspired by Agnes Von Kurowsky, a nurse who cared for him. Kitty Cannel was the inspiration for Helen Ferguson and the unnamed priest was based on Don Giuseppe Bianchi. This novel was his first best-seller and is a wonderful example of his work to come.
It was only after I had finished this blog that I realized that this was Nurses Week. Maybe that is how the idea arrived in my subconscious. So salute all those hard working nurses out there – wherever they may be.