Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm were among the first women involved in the First World War that I researched for a commemorative exhibition about some of the amazing ‘Inspirational Women’ of WW1, so I was really pleased when Lizzie asked me to review her book about the ‘Angels of Pervyse’. Apart from Pat Barker’s “Regeneration Trilogy”, “Warhorse” and “Birdsong”, I have not read a novel about WW1 for the past six years, as I have been reading factual accounts for research purposes. This novel is therefore a welcome change for me.
It is very difficult for people these days to imagine what life must have been like in 1914, when none of those things we all rely on existed: no Internet, social media, mobile phones, television, radio, air travel, holidays abroad, etc. Ordinary folk did not have a telephone at home and newspapers and telegrammes were the main means of spreading news. Many people never ventured outside their own village – the First World War changed all that.
“The War Nurses” is a work of fiction but Lizzie weaves an amazing and fascinating story, re-imagining what life must have been like for the two women. Lizzie puts herself in Mairi’s shoes, with inspiration from the true story of the four years the two women spent on the Western Front looking after the wounded. Lizzie has obviously put her heart and soul into this book, to which she brings a very modern approach which, hopefully, will appeal to younger readers and spread the word at long last about all of the incredible women and their extensive involvement in The First World War.
A fascinating read.