Monday, August 22, 2016

Nursing Fox by Jim Ditchfield

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: June 4, 2016

At the outbreak of World War I, Lucy Paignton-Fox enlists in the Australian Army Nursing Service and leaves her family's cattle station in the Northern Territory to join the war effort. During the Gallipoli campaign she serves in hospitals in Egypt, but when the Anzacs are posted to France she moves with them. A talented and spirited nurse, with dreams of one day becoming a doctor, Lucy finds more opportunities than she ever imagined: working alongside doctors and surgeons, sharing the soldiers' dangers, helping them through their pain, and making lifelong friends. But with war comes suffering. Lucy sees it all around: sorrow, disease and death. How long can she stay separated from it all? Adam Hayward joins the British Army after a devastating attack on his family. Accepted into the air force, Adam tests his luck in the cockpit fighting for those he loves. But with aircraft technology booming, can Adam continue to stay ahead of the game? John Mitchell's determination leads him slowly up the ranks. With more responsibility than ever, he becomes disillusioned with the horrors of war, but he can't help admiring the brave nurses who do so much to help the wounded men. Nursing Fox details the experiences of Australian nurses during the Great War. It honours their journeys and shows the impact that the nurses had on the soldiers with whom they crossed paths.

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I enjoyed the time I spent with Jim Ditchfield’s Nursing Fox, but I will not deny that I have mixed feelings about the book. To be perfectly honest, I think the narrative suffers an excess of plot and despite my appreciation for the material, I could help feeling frustrated at being pulled so many directions at once.

Don’t misunderstand, Nursing Fox has a lot going for it and reading the novel affords a great deal of insight to the World World I experiences of Australian forces both on and behind the lines. I was fascinated by the wealth of detail Ditchfield managed to weave into the fabric of the narrative and felt the material was exceedingly well-adapted.

That said, the novel alternates between three distinct points of views and while I found Lucy Paignton-Fox, Adam Hayward and John Mitchell quite interesting, I felt the rotation between them distracting and wished Ditchfield had limited himself to Lucy’s point of view. Lucy’s story arc was the most prominent of the three and I think the novel would have read more cleanly and felt more cohesive if the author had limited himself to a single protagonist.

When all is said and done, I can see recommending Nursing Fox to fellow readers, but I think it could have been stronger narrative if there hadn’t been so much going on.

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Lucy sat on an empty bed, her face buried in her hands as tears of relief streamed down her face. She thought back to the CCS. After all these years, all the bombs and all the shells. The fighting might be finished, but the war would never be over for her. She’d never be able to forget the hundreds of operations and the rows of graves that emphasised the failures.
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