The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr | Review | (@DebsCarr @rararesources) #ww1centenary #historicalfiction

 

Published by HarperImpulse

Available in ebook (12 October 2018) | paperback (27 December 2018)

400 pages



My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for the blog tour invitation.  I haven’t read Deborah’s previous book ‘Broken Faces‘ but I had heard so many good things about it from fellow bloggers that when the review request came up for this, I couldn’t say no.  Besides, I love historical fiction set in WW1.

My apologies to Rachel and Deborah for the delay in posting my review.  Unfortunately illness has delayed my reading and reviewing.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Young nurse, Gemma, is struggling with the traumas she has witnessed through her job in the NHS. Needing to escape from it all, Gemma agrees to help renovate a rundown farmhouse in Doullens, France, a town near the Somme. There, in a boarded-up cupboard, wrapped in old newspapers, is a tin that reveals the secret letters and heartache of Alice Le Breton, a young volunteer nurse who worked in a casualty clearing station near the front line.

Set in the present day and during the horrifying years of the war, both woman discover deep down the strength and courage to carry on in even the most difficult of times. Through Alice’s words and her unfailing love for her sweetheart at the front, Gemma learns to truly live again.

This is a beautifully written epic historical novel that will take your breath away.

 

|   My Thoughts   |

 

Told over two time lines, 1916/1918 and 2018, The Poppy Field is an engaging and well told story of the horrors of the first world war, and is a particularly poignant read in this, the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1.

In 2018 Gemma, an NHS trauma nurse, has taken leave from her job following a traumatic and distressing experience.  She comes to Doullens in Northern France to renovate an old farmhouse on behalf of her father who has inherited the building.  Gemma is at a crossroads in her life, she’s not sure that she wants to return to nursing or even what she could do if she didn’t but her first job is get the house habitable and ready for sale.  With this she has the help of local handyman Tom, a very (handsome) considerate and kind man but with his own traumas to deal with.

Hidden under the floorboards, Gemma finds a box of letters, written by an Alice Le Breton to a Captain Edgar Woodhall.  Gemma is fascinated by Alice’s story and becomes a little bit obsessed with them.

In 1916 we meet Alice Le Breton, a VAD (volunteer nurse) stationed at a casualty clearing station near Doullens, near the Somme.  Its from Alice that we hear about the horrific casualties that that the endless stream of ambulances bring in. The difficult working and living conditions – the wards being hit by the nearby shelling, the strain on the nursing staff and doctors trying to save lives and ease the men’s suffering with limited equipment – all were vividly and sympathetically described.  Against this backdrop, there is a lovely romantic thread which I was eagerly following and hoping for a perfect outcome.

There were several parallels between Gemma and Alice. Both were nurses, both had left home to try and make a new start, and both had mothers who seemed callous and cold. There was one time when I was wishing all sorts of curses on Alice’s mother!   At first the link between them seemed tenuous but as the story goes on, the house and the surrounding poppy fields have more relevance.

As much as I liked Gemma and was keen to know how her story would end, it was Alice who engaged me the most, she was compassionate, brave and wasn’t afraid to speak up where necessary.  I would have loved to have seen more of the content of the letters – for me this would have enhanced the romance element.  I knew that soldier’s letters were censored before being sent to friends and loved ones but I hadn’t realised that a similar same thing applied to the nurses.  Their incoming mail was opened by Matron and scrutinised.  Any kind of relationship between nurse and patient was strictly forbidden and could result in the nurse being sent home.

I really enjoyed this captivating and emotional story.  The level of research and detail shows through and the sense of place and drama were superbly done. I definitely recommend it for readers who favour this genre.

 

At the time of writing this post, The Poppy Field can be downloaded from Amazon UK for 99p

 

 

 

|   About the Author   |

 

 

Deborah Carr lives on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands with her husband, two children and three rescue dogs. She became interested in books set in WW1 when researching her grandfather’s time as a cavalryman in the 17th 21st Lancers. She is part of `The Blonde Plotters’ writing group and was Deputy Editor on the online review site, Novelicious.com. Her debut historical romance, Broken Faces, is set in WW1 and was runner-up in the 2012 Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition and given a ‘special commendation’ in the Harry Bowling Prize that year. The Poppy Field is her second historical novel.

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. 23rd October 2018 / 4:46 pm

    Thanks for your wonderful review of The Poppy Field, I really appreciate it. I’m thrilled you enjoyed my book.

    • Karen
      Author
      23rd October 2018 / 6:05 pm

      My pleasure Deborah, this is one of my favourite genres and I very much enjoyed it.

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