Review Blog

Jun 25 2015

Poppy in the field by Mary Hooper

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Bloomsbury, 2015. ISBN 9781408827635
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. World War One. Historical fiction. Nursing. Historical fiction at its best, Hooper continues the story of Poppy, a parlour maid from a grand house who joins the VAD's at the outbreak of World War One. This group of volunteers were able to rely on money sent from home, but Poppy is supported by a former teacher, wanting her to break free from her humble origins. In the first book, Poppy serves at a hospital in Southampton, dealing with soldiers ferried across the channel from France. She sees the end result of war, the pain and suffering it causes, the death and carnage of trench warfare. But rejected by someone she thought loved her, she volunteers to go to France to serve in the frontline hospitals. She is sent to a small coastal town where she deals with soldiers sent on from the hospitals at the fronts. Here she must deal with soldiers who have received initial help, surgery, bandaging, assessment, and now are in the second line of aid. She meets men with limbs amputated, those who feel life is at an end, those who can't wait to get back home and those who lie to avoid their girlfriends and families knowing the truth.
She joins a pair of American nurses who try to capture any moment of fun they can, and several times take out a car to go on a picnic or simply drive. She meets again Dr Michael from Netley and is drawn to him. But the strict moral code of Edwardian times still imposed in time of war sees Poppy almost sent home.
A wonderful story of a young woman learning that she can do things beyond those set by custom and society as she plays an important role in the hospitals abroad. Her hospital is an old casino in Boulogne and here she proves her metal. She meets other women who have come to be of service, none more so than the two women who set up a surgery near the front line in Belgium to treat soldiers for minor complaints to allow the doctors to get on with the war wounds, and the two American nurses wanting to do their bit.
Based on much research, this story is easy to read and engaging, giving a well grounded look at how the immediate aftermath of fighting was dealt with. And the romantic involvements running through the story add an extra piquancy which readers will enjoy.
Fran Knight

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