This took an aspect of WWI I’d never heard of – the American Women’s Hospital – and showed a fictional version of the life of its people in what seems to be a very realistic manner, never hiding the various horrors of that particular war – be it discussing bodies decomposing in No Man’s Land, the very real threat of chemical weapons, aerial bombardment, or even the Paris Gun. Along the way, we get another all too real tale of how a life can turn in an instant and the social pressures of suddenly finding oneself in dire circumstances. We even get a discussion late in the book of things not usually spoken of in that era, but which were obviously very real.
But there is one particular commentary aspect of the story that I do want to mention, and that is a particular situation involving a discussion of things that should be “given” to the troops.
You see, for this ardent anarchist, such discussions always bring to mind the following Ayn Rand quote from Atlas Shrugged: ““Miss Taggart, we have no laws in this valley, no rules, no formal organization of any kind. We come here because we want to rest. But we have certain customs, which we all observe, because they pertain to the things we need to rest from. So I’ll warn you now that there is one word which is forbidden in this valley: the word ‘give’.” (Full disclosure: I literally have a version of the title of this particular section of the book, “A is A”, – indeed, not far removed from this very sentence – tattooed on my wrist.)
Without giving anything away, let’s just say that giving the troops the thing in discussion is held as an ideal, and quite frankly it is an ideal this reader for one does not personally share. 🙂
All of that said, this really was an excellent book and is very much recommended if for the other atypical discussions alone. (Though seriously, it is an excellent story even absent the few sporadic instances of social commentary solidly embedded within the overall arc of the story.) So go buy it already. 🙂
And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Wartime Intrigue. This is yet another Lake Union book dealing with the Great War this year, and this one presents a few wrinkles other similar efforts have not – which is always welcome by this wide ranging reader. Very solid work, from the setup in rural Kentucky through the bulk of the tale in France and through the conclusion of the tale. Presents its various topics in a very period-appropriate setting while also using them to discuss larger issues. Great story, my first from this author – and won’t be my last. Very much recommended.