Poppy by Mary Hooper
Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN 9781408827628
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. War, World War One. Historical fiction like this is a treat to read, not only encompassing a page turner of a story but giving information in the background that is new to the reader. In this case the tale of a young girl joining the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) during World War One is riveting, not only for her story as a volunteer nurse, but also because it shows what happened to the wounded in France during the war.
Poppy, a parlourmaid in a country house, joins the VAD, with the help of a former teacher who pays her way. All the other women she meets in her training and while working are from higher class families who can afford to support their daughters when they volunteer. Poppy's letters back and forward to her brother Frederick on the Western Front, give us a view of the soldier's life at the front, while her work as a volunteer nurse shows what happens to the men who return wounded. Poppy works in a ward where some are not physically wounded enabling the reader to see the extent of wounds inflicted by war. The descriptions of the hospital ships coming into Southampton are astonishing. She feels for the wounded soldiers but has to come to grips with the mental wounds she must deal with. When her brother is one of the men sent back with a self inflicted wound, she must reappraise all her thoughts about courage and loyalty.
I thoroughly enjoyed this read, it was fresh and new, and even though I felt that I had read enough books about World War One to last me for a while, this one opened my eyes to bits about the war that I knew little about. Told in a refreshing almost pictorial style, the images thrown up are amazing. Poppy is a believable character and I look forward to the sequel when she arrives in Belgium, due out in May 2015.