Flashlight Commentary 3 stars:═══════════════════════════ ❧ ═══════════════════════════
My nose for WWII literature has led me to a number of interesting titles. The Bone Church, Fires of London and The Wherewithal jump immediately to mind, but R.V. Doon’s The War Nurse was different. Since reading Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides in 2009, I’ve been fascinated with the experiences of those caught behind enemy lines when Japan invaded the Philippines and hoped Doon’s fiction would do justice to the history on which it was based.
Did she succeed? I’m hesitant to say. Her effort certainly sheds light on the political situation and how quickly things went from bad to worse, but I felt the material was often lost in the complex intrigue that envelops the Stahl family over the course of the novel. Doon touches on a lot of compelling material and highlights an interesting parallel between the Japanese POW and US internment camps, but in retrospect, I can’t help feeling the fictional drama, sizable cast and sheer magnitude of the novel’s scope overwhelming and somewhat awkward.
The story itself is quite intricate, but personally I’d have liked to see more character development and atmospheric detail incorporated into the telling. Doon has the right idea, but plot points hit with the speed and rapidity of .30 caliber Browning, the weight and import of each never being allowed to settle between one impact and the next. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel the themes she wished to express and emotions she sought to elicit would have been more powerful and persuasive if tackled with a more delicate hand.
At the end of the day, I admire The War Nurse for its entertainment value. It leans towards the theatrical, but that’s common fair in war era fiction. The story kept me engaged beginning to end and that’s more than I can say of many titles and while I feel it could have been stronger, I think the right reader will find its imaginative complexities and feisty heroine quite enjoyable.
Unshelfish.org: 4 stars
This book took me by complete surprise. It’s a love story, but truly the love story is in the background foreshadowed by the brutality and harshness of war. The narrative is quietly powerful in its unique perspective of war.
The momentum builds as the love story forms before it is fractured by war. In the trenches an ongoing reminder of the cruelty and reality of combat. Doon paints a setting clearly depicting the destructiveness of war and its unmistakable impact on many.
As the story progresses, you understand as battle rages on, people’s lives came to a virtual standstill. Promises broken, expectations unmeant, dreams postponed, hopes extinguished, faith questioned, a time leaving all in limbo. The agony, suffering, loss and small samplings of joy were described wonderfully by Doon. She manages to capture the sacrifices and difficult choices faced, truly an affecting moment in history.
Doon cleverly tells the story from two very interesting and unique perspectives, a German family, and a German war nurse in the battlefield. Unique due to the fact you experience what a German family faced by Americans complete with internment camps. This original perspective added depth and dimension to the entire story, creating a high level of interest.
Katarina is a woman of incredible strength, her endurance is beyond comprehension. Her fight to survive is compelling, her anguish over her choices leaves you emotionally raw. Her predicament leaves you cringing and touched. She is quite a heroine among many others surrounding her. Courage and strength seemed necessary for every day survival during this intense violent time.
This is much more than a wartime love story, it’s a story of family, choices, survival, hopelessness and devastation. A novel encompassing so much during a horrific time demanding so much from so many caught in crossfire.
Carole’s Ramblins: 3 stars
This took me a while to finish, because it was dark. Very, very dark. Yes, there is romance between Katarina and Jack, but that is a small light in the mist of darkness surrounding not only her but her family back in the US. While she is being a nurse on the front lines against the Japanese, her family is dealing with the government thinking they are German spies and arresting them thanks to one letter from good ol’ Doctor von Wettin and because Josep and his wife never became citizens.
Poor Katarina…poor Josep and the rest of the Stahl clan. The book truly shows that each side of the war had “evil” sides. War is bloody, nasty, and people suffer. The Japanese were cruel to their POWs and America were cruel to the people who just so happened was of Japanese or German descent. No side of the war had clean hands throughout World War II.
Right from the beginning drama was underway; there was not a boring/slow part. The book kept you on your toes. However, there was a lot of characters and it was hard sometimes to keep track on who was who. Also, the ending wasn’t very satisfying. There were a few loose ends and it was a little cliff-hanger-ish. Is there going to be a second book? Or maybe a short story? I hope so, because I would love to see Katarina reunited with her family who was sent back to Germany.
Overall, this was pretty good. A lot going on with a lot of characters running about. This book shows the true horrors that some people had to face during WWII and the book shows the truth that each side of the war had their hands bloodied with some sort of cruelty. It annoys me how everyone thinks just the Japanese and Germans where “evil” or did “evil things”, so did the US and England and France. War is a horrible thing and makes people do terrible things. There was a light, though, that made me hopeful – the love between Jack and Katarina. The ending left me with some questions and I wanted more. Maybe there will be another book? I’m not sure. I recommend this to those that like historical fiction set during WWII. It is a little dark, but it was good. Out of five stars, I stamp this with 3 stars.
Favorite Character(s): Katarina, Josep, and Jack
Not-so Favorite Character(s): Von Wettin
Book Nerd: 5 Stars
Copy Received from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review:
I absolutely loved this book. I loved the time period, the characters, the plot and the dialogue. Katarina was a fantastic heroine. She really added to the story and I admired her courage. I really love all the different perspectives that the author provided about this time period. One of my favorite reads this year!
CelticLady: 4 stars
The War Nurse tells the story of the Stahl Family during WWII. It takes place on two fronts, the Philippines and the US. Katerina Stahl is a nurse for the American Red Cross, while her parents, brothers and sister are in the US. Katerina and her fiance Jack Gallagher are scheduled to go home as their duties are done, but this is the eve of WWII and Pearl Harbor has been bombed and they end up staying and taking care of the injured. Meanwhile Katerina’s family is taken into custody because they are German and even though the children were born in the US, the parents never became citizens. This causes a host of problems for the family.
War rages on and as time goes by Katerina and Jack are prisoners of the Japanese who treat the prisoners very badly. Food and medical supplies becomes a rarity and the prisoners are starving to death and a lot of them do die. They say that survival is of the fittest and that is definitely true in war time. In order to keep on surviving, Katerina becomes a smuggler for food and ends up doing things that are against what she believes in. The Stahl’s in the US end up in an military internment camp for questioning by the FBi, Ellis Island and then to a camp in Texas. They suffer segregation, they are ostracized and ultimately face repatriation back to Germany.
War is hell and this story is just a glimpse into what the ravages of war can bring to innocent people. The author knows the ins and outs of nursing, did a remarkable amount of research in my opinion, to be able to tell this story of survival in a believable way. Very believable and likeable, and some not so likeable characters. There are a lot of WWII novels out there lately, but I believe that this one is a must to read.
I received a copy for review and was not monetarily compensated for said review.
Name of Book: The War Nurse
Author: R.V. Doon
Publisher: self published
Type of book: WWII, Philippines, Bataan, nursing, Germans, discrimination, internment camps for Germans, Germany, last days, 1941-1945, imprisonment, prostitution, selling body, abuse, loyalty
Year it was published: 2014
The War Nurse is a historical family saga and epic military romance set during WWII.
This historical thriller begins on the eve of WWII in the Philippines. Katarina Stahl an American Red Cross nurse, is the happiest she’s ever been in her life. She’s making love and playing music with Jack Gallagher in an idyllic paradise. Their medical mission is over, the boat tickets to home are purchased, and all that remains is to fly a sick child to the hospital at Clark Air Field.
She never expected to witness bombs falling out of planes. In those terrifying first minutes, she frees a German doctor accused of spying and saves his life. She turns to nursing the injured, unaware she’s unleashed an obsession more dangerous to her and those she loves, than the war she’s trapped in.
Doctor von Wettin, the man she freed, finds Katarina pregnant and starving in a POW camp after the surrender. He begs her to nurse his bed-ridden wife. She knows other Americans will despise her, but wants her baby to live after surviving Bataan. Their uneasy alliance is destroyed when she discovers he exploited Red Cross diplomatic channels and contacts at the German embassy to wire money to her parents. His benevolent mask slips when he informs her that her brothers and parents are interned on Ellis Island.
When the Stahl family is swept up in the FBI’s dragnet, Josep Stahl believes it’s all a misunderstanding. He’s interrogated like a criminal at the city jail, a military camp, Ellis Island, and then the civilian internment camps in Texas. His anger and pride blind him. One by one in this painful family drama, his wife and sons join him behind barbed wire in. There they face ostracism, segregation, and, most frightening, repatriation.
Katarina begins an even more terrifying journey into depraved darkness as Manila descends into occupation and chaos. The doctor threatens everyone she loves: infant son, POW husband, and Filipino friends. She’ll do anything to protect them; she lies, steals, and smuggles. As the war turns against the Japanese, they withhold the doctor’s wife’s life-saving medications until he finds a hidden radio inside the civilian internment camp. If Katarina refuses to help him, her son pays the price.
Survival has corrupted Katarina; but she’s not about to become his camp rat. After years of hell, she’s earned her nickname, war nurse. Doctor von Wettin is about to find out what that means.
There are a lot of characters, but ones that I will focus on are Katarina, a strong and brave female nurse of German heritage who tries to re-learn what she has done wrong and is doing the best she can for whoever she can no matter how reviled she becomes to others. Josep is Katarina’s father who neglected to mention he’s an alien and often claims to be from Switzerland, where he gets caught and has to travel to German internment camps where he witnesses Nazism and hatred and wants for his children to stay away from this philosophy. There is also Johanna, Katarina’s mother who is caught in melancholy and depression as well as Katarina’s various siblings. There is Jack who is Katarina’s sunshine and von Wettin, a German man who is the villain of the story.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure of the message that the book is trying to send because there seems to be a lot of focus on everything from survival to learning lessons to discrimination and so forth.
The story is told in third person narrative from both Katarina’s and Josep’s points of view and stretches from 1941 to 1945 and takes place in both Philippines and America. I do feel that the characters should have been developed a bit more because I had some trouble connecting or understanding Katarina, and I do wish that more would have been explained between Katarina and her twin sister instead of just glimpses. But what does work in the story are the privations and details that enrich the setting of Philippines in WWII as well as story of Josep and his struggles. Also, a number of things aren’t well explained such as what exactly happened to Franzisca, or von Wettin’s motivations or designs on Katarina.
(From Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)
Buy the Book
In a lot of ways this is an important book for a lot of people to read about, as well as to become familiar with. During WWII, the ugly things that were done to enemy citizens were squashed and only too recently did the generations after WWII become familiar with them, notably the internment camps for Japanese. In The War Nurse, the author mentions an important aspect that is not talked about, or is only briefly hinted at at My Summer of German Soldier: camps and mistreatment of German-American citizens, which is shocking to learn, at least for me. While the story itself is page turning and exciting and keeps the reader wanting to find out what happens next, I have to say that its not well connected as I hoped, and between focal plot points, there are a lot of gaps which added some struggle to reading the story. But still, its a mesmerizing book on surviving in Philippines during WWII.
This is for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
The War Nurse Blog Tour Schedule
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Spotlight at Book Babe
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Review at Carole’s Ramblings
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)