Mel and her cousin Harriet are keen to nurse brave Kiwi boys fighting in the Great War, half a world away. But when they join the NZ Army Nursing Service and board a hospital ship headed for Egypt, Anzac Cove and beyond, they have little idea of the horrors they will face, the wounds they will tend, and the hearts they will help to heal.
Like many New Zealanders I know, we had relatives involved in war including the First World War and there has always been a desire to know what actually happened during that time, the minutiae of war. I've always been interested in a realistic version, not a glorified one. When I started reading "1915 Wounds of War" I became engrossed in it so quickly that I had to continue reading until I finished it all in one day. By the time I got three-quarters of the way through I was waiting to find out who these characters were and where in New Zealand they actually came from. So cleverly did the author intertwine fact with fiction that I genuinely believed I was reading a true account of two young nurses and their associates, not a fictitious one. When I got to the end, of course, I discovered that it was indeed fictitious but based on actual facts, actual places, actual events. That's what impressed me so much.
What the nurses saw - men with missing limbs, men dying, men whose bodies were too mutilated for words - what they endured, what they had to try to repair, the harsh conditions they had to work under, the shortage of supplies, shortage of amenities, shortage of everything - all so clearly described. The ships coming into Anzac Cove and the life boats picking up the wounded and bringing them out and getting them aboard the hospital ship, under attack all the time - so graphically depicted in all its horror.
This book is aimed at teenage readers but I think this book is for anybody and everybody, not just teenagers. It is important for all of us to look back and reflect on what our relatives have been through, all in the name of freedom. I had a great-aunt who was a nurse on one of these hospital ships, the "Marquette", which was torpedoed in 1915. She was one who survived after being ten hours in the water. This association is another reason why I found this book such compelling reading. But it is the showing of the horror of war that is the main feature and the main interest. It appears to be very well researched, very accurate. I appreciated the map, the photos, the timeline. I can't say I enjoyed the book but I was gripped by it. I learnt a lot and it has driven me to learn more. Because of it I have taken with great enthusiasm to the History Channel on Sky television and especially to the excellent documentaries screened in commemoration of that war which took place 100 years ago.
Thank you Diana Menefy for a knowledgeable and informative read.
I quite enjoyed the first book in the series "1914:Riding into War" written by Susan Brocker, so it made perfect sense that I would continue on in the series and try out "1915:Wounds of War". Once I started the book, I could nearly immediately tell that this book was written by a different author; Diana Menefy.
I'm unsure whether it was the writer's different style of writing, or the fact that there were two characters with different storylines, but it took me while to get through this book. I was certainly interested in learning about ANZAC nurses, especially as the storyline was centred around Gallipoli, but I found that it didn't quite focus on the areas that I had hoped it would. It provided quite extensive descriptions of the various locations that were visited, and the activities that were completed while off-duty, but there was really little emphasis on the war, the wounds, or the losses. It felt more like a tourism guide of places around the world, than a side of the war story.
The first two-thirds of the book felt distanced from the war (both emotionally and geographically). I thoroughly enjoyed the intervention for Joe, and when we got to the Lemnos sister at Turk's Head, where emphasis was placed on the detailing specific cases, and poor working conditions; and that portion of the storyline intrigued me.
But as a male that enjoys thrills and action, I felt the story was too generalised, and skirted over the parts that I would really have considered to be the important part of being a nurse; looking after the soldiers. The characters just didn't feel involved. I felt more like a spectator than a participant.
Last year I had the privilege of reviewing the first book in this series, '1914: Riding into War'. When '1915: Wounds of War' became available for review, I was delighted to be able to review it as well. This series is aimed at young adult readers; however, as an adult, I am very much enjoying reading the books. Once I started reading, I found it difficult to put the book down. I sat for several hours at a time on a comfy beanbag, reading chapter after chapter.
'1915: Wounds of War' is about the Kiwi nurses who went to look after the soldiers during World War One. The book has some links to the characters and events in the first book in the series. Either book can be read independently but they also work nicely together in order to present a good knowledge of the events in World War One. Each book in the series has a different author and after reading the first two books, I think that they have collaborated nicely to give the sense of continuity and flow between the books. They are writing about the same war and it certainly feels that way when one is reading the books.
The story moves between the experiences of two main characters, Mel and Harriet. They have to deal with fear, danger, loss of friends and family, and the unknown. Every now and then, the characters make contact through letters or in person as their paths cross briefly. In between the treatment of the wounded and snippets of the experiences of the war, there are some happier, more relaxed times presented in the book. Friendships are formed, and tours of local places, dancing and singing are enjoyed during short leave periods. As some of the characters visit sites in Egypt, my own memories drifted back to time I spent there a number of years ago.
As she tells the story, the author has used a mix of narrative and personal voice through the use of letters between family members. The letters really draw the reader into the first hand emotions and experiences that people may have gone through. A single voice in the horror of the war is extremely powerful and it is much easier for us to relate to on a personal level. We really get a chance to feel for that one person as we read the letters.
While reading this book, I found myself really empathising with the characters. I kept reflecting on what it might have been like for me if I had been born at a different time and ended up being one of the nurses, leaving the safety of home and embarking on a dangerous, terrifying experience to the other side of the world. Even worse than the possibility of being in that situation myself, I also considered what it might have been like for me as a mother letting my daughter go off to tend to the wounded.
Although the book is aimed at teens, there are graphic themes. I would suggest that younger teens should be guided by a parent as some may find parts upsetting. My 12 year old niece has enjoyed reading '1914: Riding into War' and I will definitely recommend she reads '1915: Wounds of War' too. I think that both she and I will be needing to read the entire series of five books. I think I would feel ripped off if I didn't. Based on my knowledge of the series thus far, I am sure that after reading all five, I will have a much broader understanding of the war and the many facets to it.
It is extremely moving to be reading this book in 2015, 100 years after events described in this book could have happened. I think it important that teenagers gain an understanding of these situations. This series reaches to young people to begin their journey towards understanding the war and how it affected people in so many ways. I know that my interest and knowledge has been expanded through reading the books.
Although some of the people and situations are fictitious, they are based on real events during World War One. The Authors Note at the back of the book, explains that she has used stories of nurses and recounts in their diaries to create a real experience for the reader. One can also see from the vast bibliography, that many sources have been consulted in order to give an accurate account of experiences that New Zealand nurses had during the war. The Author's Note is very valuable to refer to as it explains how she has woven fact and fiction together.
In addition to the Author's Note and bibliography, the back of the book also contains a timeline, glossary and three historical photos. This factual information assists the reader to visualise some of the settings within the book, piece together the events in the book, and understand some of the terms used throughout. These resources should not be glossed over, but rather used to get a fuller experience from the book.
In the community that I live in, most of us have what we need to survive. We really don't know what it would be like to be caught up in such horrible situations. Simple things like food and safety we take for granted. There is a passage in the book which refers to the fact that ..."one of the boys....(has) been living on a couple of biscuits and a few ounces of brown-coloured water for days". The teenagers who are likely to read this book may do well to reflect on that as they demand the latest piece of technology or stand in line for a latte. Life was very different then and the book gives us an insight into the harsh realities of the war for the people serving.
I know that I, like many, think of the war as involving trenches, soldiers, death and injuries. This series of books addresses parts of the war that I hadn't ever thought about. It allows the reader to get a fuller understanding of the war and to be able to reflect back on all of the people who served in the war and gave or risked their lives for us. After reading books in this series, I think that many people will develop an interest in searching for more stories and facts about the war. Knowledge leads to a population understanding what happened and never forgetting the people involved.
The end of the book leaves us to ponder on how one nurse could make a difference to one soldier's fate. It is thought provoking and emotional.
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