This 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 ;-).