“Love comes out of nowhere for most of us, when we least expect it . . . this young man has flown into your heart and made a nest”.
Eugenie Lester is a lady of advanced years and superior understanding. She believes in love and holds her deceased husband Edward close in her heart. The words above, spoken by Eugenie, are a beautiful illusion to the lead characters of Nightingale.
Claire Nightingale, a British nurse and Jamie Wren, an Australian Light Horseman meet on a beach. Sounds romantic until you fill the beach, not with the laughter of children, but with the sights and sounds of wounded, dying servicemen. Claire is trying to get a triage system in place attempting to bring some order to the chaos. Despite his own injuries, Jamie has carried his friend from the ridges above to the hospital station.
Amid the chaos, Claire and Jamie fall in love.
During a temporary armistice, Jamie’s unit is sent out to retrieve men, and weapons, from no man’s land. On the other side, Turkish soldier Açar Shahin is on the same duty for the Turks. A Sunni who doesn’t want to be at war and has the heart of poet, Açar speaks English. He and Jamie share a cigarette and exchange gifts, forging a bond recognising they are not each other’s enemy.
These exchanged gifts have significance beyond the men; they lead to a meeting of cultures and to forgiveness, as enemies embrace. They lead Claire to search for Jamie when even all indications are that he lost his life on the Western Front.
Gallipoli, the beginning of our ANZAC tradition, is nearing its one hundredth anniversary and many books of recent years, fiction and non-fiction have been published with World War I as the central theme.
Many authors have turned their pens to the subject, thereby adding to our combined knowledge of this historical event. Importantly, I believe, many are telling the stories of ordinary men and women, not just as facts on a page, but as part of our human story.
Many of these new novels and histories are highlighting not just the stories of the servicemen, but also the stories of the women, mainly nursing staff, who fought their own battles on the front line. These amazing women fought battles against unsanitary conditions, lack of supplies and a never-ending procession of wounded. They worked to mend all that was broken, often knowing that their care would send a young boy back to face another battle.
It is a privilege to read the stories of our ANZAC heroes, whether they are told as tales of daring do or as a love story, not always a romantic love, but love nonetheless.
The amount of research behind an historical novel is daunting and very evident in Nightingale. The descriptions of the countryside, the battlefields, the beach and the hospital ship are so vivid you can see and even smell them. One particularly descriptive scene is Claire’s childhood memory of high tea with her Aunty at the Langham Hotel. It’s enough to make you add this experience to your “bucket” list. I would love to share other such scenes with you, but you need to read them to fully appreciate their significance to the novel as a whole.
This is the fifth historical novel written by Fiona McIntosh, probably best known for her adult fantasy, and my sincere thanks to Penguin Books Australia via NetGalley for my ARC. Fiona McIntosh tells a good story and I look forward to reading more of them.
About the author
It’s been a curious pathway to writing novels having spent years in PR, sales/marketing for the travel industry and including 15 years running a travel magazine with my husband. I was fortunate that my first attempt at a creative tale won the notice of a global publisher and I’ve been writing fiction ever since and across various genres although I am best known for my adult fantasy and my historical adventure-romances.
I’m still globetrotting regularly but only for books research now, and while our family calls South Australia home, I do my best writing from Tasmania.
There’s not a great deal of space in my busy life for hobbies but I do make time to bake (usually very late), exercise (usually early), and to ritually make a great coffee brew daily – coffee is my vice…along with dark chocolate. I love watching movies and these days I am deriving immense pleasure from reading loads of research books for my historical novels.
If coffee and chocolate are my vices, then my addictions are winter boots…and Paris. http://www.fionamcintosh.com