The Desert Nurse…
About the Book:
Amid the Australian Army hospitals of World War I Egypt, two deeply determined individuals find the resilience of their love tested to its limits.
It’s 1911, and 21-year-old Evelyn Northey desperately wants to become a doctor. Her father forbids it, withholding the inheritance that would allow her to attend university. At the outbreak of World War I, Evelyn disobeys her father, enlisting as an army nurse bound for Egypt and the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.
Under the blazing desert sun, Evelyn develops feelings for polio survivor Dr William Brent, who believes his disability makes him unfit to marry. For Evelyn, still pursuing her goal of studying medicine, a man has no place in her future. For two such self-reliant people, relying on someone else for happiness may be the hardest challenge of all.
From the casualty tents, the fever wards and the operating theatres of the palace; through the streets of Cairo during Ramadan, to the parched desert and the grim realities of war, Pamela Hart, beloved bestselling Australian author of THE WAR BRIDE, tells the heart-wrenching story of four years that changed the world forever.
If there was ever going to be a novel that I could select out of the thousands that I’ve read, a novel containing my ideal story, with every note being hit with perfection, then this would be my pick. The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart.
“How long would it be, he wondered as he climbed the wooden steps, before our images stop being warlike?”
You can always rely on Pamela Hart to write an authentic Australian story that is true to its era with a focus on the incredible Australian women who have shaped our nation’s history. With crossovers to characters from her previous WWI novels, Pamela shows just how small our nation was at the time of WWI, highlighting the enormous sacrifice Australians gave to the fight for world peace.
I really liked Evelyn Northey and William Brent, equally as much, and enjoyed how they shared the spotlight within this story. Two hardworking and respectful individuals with a mutual drive to help others and a deep appreciation for the work ethic and skill they each saw in the other. They were so well suited but I was pleased that their relationship was hard fought for. I savoured their connection, but what I really wanted out of this story, and received, was the insight into being a desert nurse during WWI. In this, Pamela delivered in spades.
The research undertaken to ensure authenticity throughout this novel was very much in evidence. The Gallipoli campaign was meticulously recreated, and the four years following it, but from the perspective of those who were on the other end of it, the medical emergency end, where the full horror could be realised. The amount of work, the high expectations placed upon medical teams, the sheer exhaustion and emotional unleashing was all there for the reader to absorb. I loved the truth of this novel, the lack of glorification and glamour, just the bare bones ugly truth of war. The sheer waste, the terror and heartbreak. Any person who willingly signs up to work as a medic on a battlefield is an instant hero in my eyes, and Pamela emphasised, over and over, the incredible work our ANZAC nurses did, under extreme conditions, during WWI. The Desert Nurse is a significant achievement of historical fiction.
There was such a strong sense of time and place throughout The Desert Nurse. From the winds of the desert, to the soaring pyramids, and the Egyptian Luna Park that had been converted into a makeshift hospital; everything to do with the setting was recreated with such realism and I felt completely transported back in time to a place I’ve never been but could picture perfectly. The stunning cover that adorns this novel sets the reader up with high expectations and the story contained within more than lives up to this. On the topic of the cover, it’s one of the best I’ve seen in a very long time in terms of being an authentic representation of its story. So many covers are lovely to look at, but this one has definitely been designed by someone who was familiar with the entire story, not just the blurb. It’s not until you are buried deep into the story that you fully appreciate this.
The relationships between the people in this novel shine, highlighting the indomitable spirit of those who have the passion and bravery to step out and help others even when they are reaching breaking point themselves. All of those broken men, being patched back together as best as they could be, under the direst of circumstances, so far from the shores of their own home. What a great tribute this story is, to our nation’s WWI effort. What an honourable representation of the heroic work done by our desert nurses. I highly recommend The Desert Nurse as one of my top reads of the year so far. I finished this novel with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face, hopeful for the future that Evelyn and William were about to embark upon.
Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of The Desert Nurse for review.
About the Author:
Pamela is an award-winning author for adults and children. She has a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney. Under the name Pamela Freeman she wrote the historical novel THE BLACK DRESS, which won the NSW Premier’s History Prize for 2006. Pamela is also well known for her fantasy novels for adults, published by Orbit worldwide, the Castings Trilogy, and her Aurealis Award-winning novel EMBER AND ASH. Pamela lives in Sydney with her husband and their son, and teaches at the Australian Writers’ Centre. THE DESERT NURSE follows her bestselling novels THE SOLDIER’S WIFE, THE WAR BRIDE and A LETTER FROM ITALY.
The Desert Nurse
Published by Hachette Australia
Released on 10th July 2018
Available in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook