In brief: The fourth book in the Nightingales series, set in London 1937 and following a group of nursing students, some familiar, some new.
The good: Always full of love, sadness and surprises.
The not-so-good: The ending seemed like closure for a couple of the original characters – surely not?
Why I chose it: I’ve enjoyed the series so far and managed to track this one down (plus book 7 comes out next month!)
Publisher: Arrow Books (Random House)
Setting: London, UK
My rating: 9 out of 10
I do love the Nightingales series as a comfort read – they’re easy to read, yet entertaining and interesting. As I progress through the series, I’m amazed at the way Donna Douglas expertly weaves in new characters and brings others to the forefront. I am glad though that I’m a little late to the series, because the ending of the book almost felt like the end of the series! There was closure for several characters who have had starring roles in the books so far. However, I’m taking what could be an innocent statement by one of them to be a sign of return later on!
The books are set in the Florence Nightingale Hospital in London’s East End and this book sits in 1937. We know that there’s upheaval to come for the staff, but in this book they fortunately seem unaware of it. We carry on the story of Dora, now in her final section of nursing training. Can she and Nick sort out their issues and find happily ever after? Maybe, but there’s more pressing things for Dora at the moment. An old enemy has returned to her personal life and she’s been paired with her foe, Lucy Lane in the paediatric ward. Dora can’t stand Lucy with her high and mighty ways. But in this book, we find out what’s happening in Lucy’s life which makes her much more sympathetic.
There’s also two new characters who are like chalk and cheese. Jess is the maid in the student nurses’ home and she’s determined to work hard and learn all she can. A chance meeting with Effie, a new student nurse, ends up with them being unlikely friends. Effie is immature, flippant and out for a fun time instead of nursing work. Can they help each other when they need it?
Nightingales on Call does miss out on some previously adored characters. There’s little mention of Helen (now a theatre nurse), but given the tragedy that befell her in the last book, that’s likely to be a good thing! Millie is another one who is sidelined – we hear about her upcoming wedding, but not too much more. I had always thought that this wedding wouldn’t occur, based on some romance in previous books, but it looks like I’m proven wrong. I did miss them both as I didn’t particularly like Effie – she was lazy and babyish at times (not to mention stupid). Hopefully the inklings of maturity we saw at the conclusion of the book carry through to the next one. Jess was a stellar character, tough and moral and I can’t wait to hear more about her.
The book is predominantly character driven – we alternate between nurses in the chapters but there’s also a cracking plot. Everything is nicely tied together and moments of fun balance nicely with the sadder moments. What I hadn’t really realised until this book was that we follow a particular specialty depending on where the nurse main characters are rotated. This time is was paediatrics and wow, there have been so many changes in medicine since this time! (Not to mention visiting hours – can you imagine telling a parent they can only see their child once a month?) I loved the historical medicine aspect, as I always do. The books have a comforting feel to them combined with a hint of nostalgia.
My only minor whinge is that it’s near impossible to go out and buy these books off the shelf in Australia – you either need to order them online or buy as an eBook. It’s a pity, because I think they would appeal to a lot of readers who aren’t the online buying type. Plus, when I want my next Nightingale fix, I have to wait if I want a paper book – and that’s hard for this series addict!