06 January 2015
Over by Christmas
The Walnut Tree, Charles Todd
This is a "holiday novel" by a very loose thread only, when a beautiful thing happens on Christmas Eve, so it was appropriate for the end of the Christmas season. In this one-off novel from Todd as not part of the Bess Crawford or Ian Rutledge series, Lady Elspeth Douglas is in France with her good friend Madeleine when the Great War breaks out. Elspeth has been brought up in great wealth, but when she sees hordes of thirsty soldiers in Paris and tries to help them, she is called to serve as she has never been called before. Having an "understanding" with her best friend's brother, she is disconcerted when she is attracted to the Army officer who makes it possible for her to get out of England. Defying her guardian, she trains as a nurse and goes back to the front, where she discovers a purpose for her life, but a dilemma for her heart.
This is a short, sweet wartime romance about a wealthy girl who finds her true self and her inner strength in serving on the battlefield. She experiences mud and misery and terror, grief and love, kindness and loyalty, with her nerve and her dignity intact. While the end may seem a bit pat for modern audiences, the events narrated did happen in real life. I enjoyed all the characters and the brief look at the nursing sisters' experience at the front and with the wounded, and the stubborn resolve of the men determined that their cause was the right one. And the holiday event brings to mind a beautiful image that will stay with me.