Reviewed by Marisa Deshaies
A historical saga set amongst the Philippines and the United States, R.V. Doon’s The War Nurse brings to light the horrors and difficulties of living as part of America’s Greatest Generation. Chronicling the journey of the Stahl family, Doon’s central characters face hatred for their German roots and heritage. As daughter Katarina Stahl nurses the wounded soldiers and Filipinos amongst Bataan and Corregidor, she finds that morals sometimes must be comprised in order to protect loved ones. Bombings, illness, starvation, and brutality threaten to destroy Katarina’s will to live. Her love for her POW husband and unborn child, however, bring her to depths previously unfelt when her enemy offers protection. Katarina’s desire to survive for her family and the soldiers fighting for freedom earns her the nickname of war nurse, one she deserves for her fiery spirit and iron-clad will.
I have a penchant for World War II novels. The culture of the time period, the drama and heroism, the romance–it all blends together beautifully for a gripping story. The War Nurse certainly has elements of a compelling piece: a spunky heroine, a heroic leading man, an evil nemesis, and a captivating plot. I should have loved this book–but I didn’t. Despite Katarina’s bravery, I found her reckless choices and brashy behavior unrealistic given her circumstances. Stiff dialog and Doon’s choice to tell, rather than show, contributed to a combination of stilted talk and actions between the characters.
The War Nurse has all the makings of a strong novel. Internment and repatriation are not topics that are discussed much in conversation or within World War II novels. The treatment of German and Japanese Americans during and following the war is too-often overlooked in education about the war. The role of combat nurses should always be celebrated for its bravery and heroism. Doon had a lot of good material to work with, and The War Nurse is still a book that could be enjoyable for those who like stories set during this time. I would recommend The War Nurse for readers who have a strong background in this war and therefore can overlook the problems with the novel itself.
An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.
Review copy was provided by R.V. Doon. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.