Title: Sisters of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman
Genre: Historical, World War I, Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Inspired by real women, this powerful novel tells the story of two unconventional American sisters who volunteer at the front during World War I
August 1914. While Europe enters a brutal conflict unlike any waged before, the Duncan household in Baltimore, Maryland, is the setting for a different struggle. Ruth and Elise Duncan long to escape the roles that society, and their controlling father, demand they play. Together, the sisters volunteer for the war effort—Ruth as a nurse, Elise as a driver.
Stationed at a makeshift hospital in Ypres, Belgium, Ruth soon confronts war’s harshest lesson: not everyone can be saved. Rising above the appalling conditions, she seizes an opportunity to realize her dream to practice medicine as a doctor. Elise, an accomplished mechanic, finds purpose and an unexpected kinship within the all-female Ambulance Corps. Through bombings, heartache and loss, Ruth and Elise cherish an independence rarely granted to women, unaware that their greatest challenges are still to come.
Illuminating the critical role women played in the Great War, this is a remarkable story of resilience, sacrifice and the bonds that can never be vanquished.
Sisters of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman is a powerful novel that highlights the dangerous jobs undertaken by women during World War I.
In 1914, sisters Ruth and Elise Duncan live with their widowed father and grandfather in Baltimore. Both young women have unconventional choices for their careers. Elise is mechanically inclined and her physician father indulges her by allowing her to work on his car. During her childhood, Ruth tagged along father to his medical practice and she wants to follow in his footsteps. Her dream is dashed by his insistence women are nurses not doctors. The sisters’ grandfather introduces them to John Doweling, the son of a British family friend. As World War I intensifies, John completes medical school early in order to join the military. As Ruth contemplates her future, she and Elise volunteer to work at the temporary hospital in Ypres, Belgium. Close to the brutal fighting, Ruth and Elise’s lives are forever altered by their experiences.
Ruth is bitterly disappointed at her father’s decree that she become a nurse. Meeting John is transformational in more than one way and she yearns for the opportunity to pursue her career aspiration. Ruth can never seem to please her father, so after an angry encounter, she sets her plans in motion to work as a nurse in Ypres. But nothing in her life can prepare for the conditions she finds at the field hospital. Terrified yet committed, Ruth’s aptitude for surgery is put to use as wounded soldiers pour into the operating room. She and John are reunited and their friendship soon turns much deeper.
Elise’s interest in working on cars is unorthodox yet she cannot give up doing what she loves. She will not allow Ruth to go to Ypres on her own and they set off on their journey together. Elise has never really experienced any type of hardship so she is shocked at the conditions she finds upon her arrival. She is a hard worker and her fellow ambulance drivers soon come to rely on her mechanical abilities. Elise forms a close friendship with fellow driver Hera Montraine and the two are soon inseparable.
Sisters of the Great War is a riveting novel that is incredibly fascinating. The sisters’ anguish, the unbearable conditions and heartrending decisions play out against the vivid backdrop of the hospital and raging battles at the front. Ruth and Elise and well-developed characters that grow and evolve during their transformational years during World War I. Suzanne Feldman’s meticulous research results in an educational and unforgettable novel about women who volunteered to fill precarious jobs during the Great War.