All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Blog Tour Review: The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart

on July 28, 2018

The Desert Nurse 
Pamela Hart
Hachette AUS
2018, 407p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Amid the Australian Army hospitals of World War I Egypt, two deeply determined individuals find the resilience of their love tested to its limits

It’s 1911, and 21-year-old Evelyn Northey desperately wants to become a doctor. Her father forbids it, withholding the inheritance that would allow her to attend university. At the outbreak of World War I, Evelyn disobeys her father, enlisting as an army nurse bound for Egypt and the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Under the blazing desert sun, Evelyn develops feelings for polio survivor Dr William Brent, who believes his disability makes him unfit to marry. For Evelyn, still pursuing her goal of studying medicine, a man has no place in her future. For two such self-reliant people, relying on someone else for happiness may be the hardest challenge of all.

From the casualty tents, the fever wards and the operating theatres of the palace; through the streets of Cairo during Ramadan, to the parched desert and the grim realities of war, Pamela Hart, beloved bestselling Australian author of THE WAR BRIDE, tells the heart-wrenching story of four years that changed the world forever.

This was such a delightful, thought provoking story.

Evelyn Northey is intelligent and driven and desperate to become a doctor. She has the means to do so, having an inheritance from her mother but the terms of her mother’s will mean that Evelyn does not come into her money until she either marries (and then it goes to her husband) or she reaches her majority. Until then it is controlled by her father and he is adamant that medicine is no place for a woman. They can make competent nurses and assistants when trained correctly but they are far too emotional to make the sort of decisions that medicine requires and he completely refuses permission for Evelyn to become a doctor and also to even get any formal nursing qualifications. She can assist him in his practice and that’s it. Unbeknownst to him, Evelyn is assisted by a doctor at the local hospital to get the qualifications she needs. Upon learning that her majority is 30 and not 21 as she first thought, Evelyn cannot face more years ahead working with her domineering father and so when war breaks out, she enlists in the army as a nurse.

World War 1 in terms of history, is not that long ago. Yes it’s 100 years and progress in many areas has been incredibly rapid since then – and this book showcases that one of those areas is women’s rights. Evelyn, as an unmarried woman, is forced to suffer under the authority of her father. He is against her fulfilling her dream to study medicine and become a doctor and no amount of attempting to reason has any impact on him. Evelyn makes up her mind quite early that she wishes to never marry – that will just give another man authority over her and he’ll also be given control of her inheritance from her mother. Having been completely ignored in her wishes, Evelyn has no desire to ever subject herself to that for a second time. Enlisting in the army as a nurse and being sent to Cairo to tend the wounded from places like Gallipoli gives her the first sort of freedom, even though she’s under army regulations. It’s a mix of foreign adventure but also terrible tragedy as they see young man after young man through terrible injuries and worse.

When she enlists, Evelyn meets Dr William Brent. Despite the obvious and immediate attraction between them that continues as they work together in Cairo, both firmly believe there’s no future in marriage for either of them. William is a polio survivor who walks with a limp and has an injured hip. He knows that quite often, polio survivors go downhill with age and he doesn’t want to subject himself onto a wife who may end up with a severely disabled husband. William is kind and supportive of Evelyn in all ways – he offers to help her with her Latin in order to her to fulfil her dream of studying medicine on her own and he seems exactly the sort of man who would not exert authority over his wife in the way that Evelyn’s father did over the women in his life. Evelyn and William are both so tempted but their insecurities, determination and fears hold them back. Evelyn can’t be sure that William wouldn’t change after marriage, want her to have babies and stay home, give up her medicine dream and William doesn’t want to take the risk of giving Evelyn someone to care for in a nurse/patient role rather than being husband/wife.

I absolutely loved this book, it was such a multi-layered read. On one hand, it’s showcasing the fight for equality and women’s rights and the struggle of being in a time where you’re beholden to the men in your life. Evelyn is lucky to have a brother that supports her and the two of them have a great relationship (he also enlists to fight) but her relationship with her father is damaged and broken by his inability to understand her. And even worse, he doesn’t want to understand her or even believe that he should try. I don’t read a lot of books that center around WWI but whenever I do, I always enjoy them so much. This is brutal in terms of showcasing nursing in a place that’s removed from fighting but inundated with serious casualties in a foreign and often challenging location. The pace is relentless but Evelyn thrives -it does amazing things for her confidence and self-belief. I loved her bond with William, how they could talk about anything and the support they each found. I understood Evelyn’s decision not to marry – it made sense for her at the time, given what she wanted out of her life. And I also understood William’s need not to be a burden in the future for someone but at the same time, these are both obstacles that can be overcome, for the right relationship!

This is the second Pamela Hart book I’ve read now (and the characters from the first one that I read, appear very briefly in this book) and there’s also a character in this that has her own book – so that’s now top of my wishlist! This was such a riveting read, I became really invested in Evelyn and her journey towards becoming a doctor – I kept hoping that she wouldn’t let go of her dream and would find a way to make it work, even without her father’s financial and emotional support. The struggle for equality really resonated with me too, made me think about how far things have come in the time since WWI (and how far there is still to go, in many ways). The characters in Hart’s stories are women doing their best to live their dreams, to break through constraints of society and become valuable contributors in the ways that they want to be.

Absolutely fabulous and highly recommended! Especially for anyone who has an interest in WWI, women’s history and feminism as well as a little romance.


Book #123 of 2018

Pamela is an award-winning author for adults and children. She has a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney. Under the name Pamela Freeman she wrote the historical novel THE BLACK DRESS, which won the NSW Premier’s History Prize for 2006. Pamela is also well known for her fantasy novels for adults, published by Orbit worldwide, the Castings Trilogy, and her Aurealis Award-winning novel EMBER AND ASH. Pamela lives in Sydney with her husband and their son, and teaches at the Australian Writers’ Centre. THE DESERT NURSE follows her bestselling novels THE SOLDIER’S WIFE, THE WAR BRIDE and A LETTER FROM ITALY.





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5 responses to “Blog Tour Review: The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart

  1. Marg says:

    I am listening to this at the moment and enjoying it a lot.

    Have you read daughter of mars by tom keneally?

  2. This one was a big winner for me too! Loved it!

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