Nightingales at War by Donna Douglas

In brief: Sixth in the Nightingales series as the Blitz descends on London, the nurses find the hospital in the crossfire.

The good: Dora is back!

The not-so-good: Jennifer (one of the new VADs) really irked me at first, as she was so flippant and self-centred.

Why I chose it: Enjoying the series and I couldn’t really wait after finishing the previous book!

Year: 2015

Pages: 421

Publisher: Arrow (Random House)

Setting: London

My rating: 9 out of 10

The Nightingales series is one of my favourite comfort reads, so it’s with some trepidation that I’m catching up all too quickly! (There’s only one more book after this one currently available). In the sixth book, things turn from awful to much worse for the poor staff as they are caught in London’s Blitz during World War II. (The hospital is in the East End, so they are copping a lot of bombs uncomfortably often). The book has a higher casualty count than usual, with some familiar characters caught in the crossfire. This also made it a bit more of a tear jerker for me! But overall, the story was exciting and it was interesting to read about the war from the hospital/nursing staff’s point of view.

The high point on opening Nightingales at War was that Dora was back! She’s one of my favourite characters – honest, plucky and not one to shy away from a fight. Dora’s married now with twins, but she wants to help the war effort and get her mind off worrying about husband Nick. Working in a ward of injured soldiers probably isn’t the best place to do that, but Dora’s thinks she’s tough. There are a few wobbles along the way and some major drama that will shake her faith. But knowing Dora, we know that she will pull through.

The other major characters in this book are new VADs. Jennifer and Cissy are best friends, who think that working in the hospital will be a bit of a lark in between nights dancing with handsome soldiers. I can’t say that I liked either of them at first. Jennifer is self-centred, caring about nothing but men and looking pretty. (And this is in the middle of a world war!) Unfortunately she will soon be in the thick of things, and have to learn a lesson or two. After some disastrous events and Jennifer’s compassion for a wounded soldier, I did like her more as a character. Cissy was more in the background – she appeared to be Jennifer’s follower, doing whatever she did. Hence she was a lot nicer towards the end of the book and even stood up to her!

Eve is the other new VAD and she’s worlds apart from Jennifer and Cissy. She lives a tortured life under the thumb of her aunt, believing herself to be unworthy of…anything really. But she shines at her VAD duties and there are people who want to help her. Unfortunately, she’s also the victim of bullying from Jennifer and Cissy. But Eve’s growing a backbone and she might just surprise everyone…

In between this, the Nightingale Hospital is hit by bombs several times. Regrettably not everyone gets through unscathed, but the nurses show devotion at all times, even as the wards move to the basement! It’s not pleasant (actually, it’s downright scary) but I found their ingenuity inspiring. I love this series- the Nightingales never fail to give me a great story, full of emotion.

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