No Place for a Lady by Gill Paul


Word PressThis is a rather simplistic novel about two well-to-do British sisters both caught up in the Crimean War, one as a nurse and one as the wife of an Army officer.  The storylines aren’t particularly well-developed or convincing, but it’s all right as an easy read … insofar as anything about the Crimean War, a stupid, horrendous waste of life, which should never have happened (modern day politicians complaining about each other’s policies on Syria would do well to have a long, hard think about the events of 1853-6), can ever be easy.  And it has its moments: there’s an interesting description of soldiers’ wives seeing the Charge of the Light Brigade from afar, there are some reasonably well-expressed descriptions of hospitals, and there’s an excellent portrayal of the all-too-often overlooked Mary Seacole.  Florence Nightingale came across as rather a bossy-boots, but I’m not arguing with that!  It’s just not very … deep.  There are a few minor annoyances – people in the 1850s would not have thought of themselves as living in “Victorian” times, an officer’s wife would not have given her name as “Mrs Lucy Harvington” rather than “Mrs Charles Harvington”, and the British spelling/pronunciation at the time would have been “Sebastopol” rather than “Sevastopol” (I was lucky enough to visit the place in 2008, and I kept calling it Sebastopol with a b because I’m just so used to thinking of it as such!) – but generally the book seemed fairly well-researched, just too … basic and simplistic.  Still, it’s OK as a bedtime read, especially after a hard day!

Oh, and I was interested to read, in the afterword, the thanks expressed by the author to Natasha McEnroe of the Florence Nightingale Museum in London.  I wonder if she’s read Natasha’s short story about Christmas at Pretty Maids ;-).



3 thoughts on “No Place for a Lady by Gill Paul

  1. Chris Deeley

    Another brilliant review! I will definitely try to read this book – especially as it’s well-researched. The best book on the Charge of the Light Brigade may still be “The Reason Why” by Cecil Woodham-Smith, who also wrote a brilliant biography of Florence Nightingale and an – alas – unfinished biography of Queen Victoria. There were indeed many spectators of the Charge. Apparently one could clearly see (maybe through a telescope) the white blaze on the nose of Cardigan’s horse (Ronald) as he led the charge and was first through the guns. Cardigan was contemptuous of the Cossack horses and of Captain Nolan who “cried out like a girl” when mortally wounded.

    Anyway, overall the Crimean War was a useful learning experience for the Brits, which is more than can be said about happenings in the near and middle east since 1956.


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