The conditions these women worked under were far less than optimal. Often their “hospitals” were no more than canvas tents that could be packed up and moved with very little notice. And like the soldiers they treated, they were also not immune to attack by Nazi soldiers. Trucks carrying medical staff and supplies were as often bombed as were the ambulances bringing the wounded to the nearest tent hospital. All of the medical staff would work far longer shifts than at any other time would be considered reasonable, often needing to skip sleep and meals to save as many lives as possible.
When they did get a break, food for the staff was usually less than desired, as their patients received the better and larger quantities needed to help the soldiers heal so that they could be returned to the Front to fight again. Getting a chance to bathe was considered a luxury that they often had to forego. That isn’t to say they didn’t wash, just that the opportunity for a full bath rather than a quick wash up was quite often not available to anyone. It was far more important to be able to sterilize the surgical tools and keep the wounds of the injured soldiers clean to help prevent gangrene.
Occasionally, medical personnel were sent to local convents where wounded soldiers were being hidden and tended to by the nuns who resided there. This was not optimal, as quite often these soldiers did not survive their injuries, but it did allow for some to survive until trained medical staff could arrive to assist and arrange for them to be transported elsewhere. Even the medical staff on these missions of mercy were not safe from attack as Nazi soldiers were as likely to kill women and children as they were enemy soldiers.
Given the detail included in this novel, this book was clearly well researched by the author. The story successfully draws the reader in and allows them to feel for these women, both during the war and after they returned home as their story was not finished merely by the ending of the war. Their lives were forever changed, just as were the lives of the men who fought in the war, and Ms. Lane wisely chose to show us some of the effects of those changes rather than ending their story when they left France to return home.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the women who bravely went to serve during WWII alongside the men. While this is a work of fiction, I still learned quite a bit and greatly enjoyed the story that was told.