Publication Date: 10 July 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
It’s 1911, and 21-year-old Evelyn Northey desperately wants to become a doctor. Her father forbids it, withholding the inheritance that would allow her to attend university. At the outbreak of World War I, Evelyn disobeys her father, enlisting as an army nurse bound for Egypt and the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.
Under the blazing desert sun, Evelyn develops feelings for polio survivor Dr William Brent, who believes his disability makes him unfit to marry. For Evelyn, still pursuing her goal of studying medicine, a man has no place in her future. For two such self-reliant people, relying on someone else for happiness may be the hardest challenge of all.
From the casualty tents, the fever wards and the operating theatres of the palace; through the streets of Cairo during Ramadan, to the parched desert and the grim realities of war, Pamela Hart, beloved bestselling Australian author of THE WAR BRIDE, tells the heart-wrenching story of four years that changed the world forever.
The Desert Nurse follows Evelyn Northey, a young girl who aspires to be a doctor, but is instead a nurse because her father forbids it. With no intention of marrying, Evelyn enlists as a nurse during World War I and assists with the casualties in a desert in Egypt. However, she comes to trust Dr William Brent, a survivor of polio with a disability, and falls for his kind nature.
As you read the beginning of the novel, you get an insight into Evelyn’s father’s messed up views on how society treated women in the early 1900s. He does not allow Evelyn to inherit her dead mother’s money until she is thirty, which destroys her plans of becoming a doctor. She tells herself that because of this, she won’t marry, as if she does, her husband will have control of her inheritance. The struggles that women faced during this time period is evident throughout the novel and it is difficult not to feel the pain that Evelyn goes through while reading her story.
Some of the story is also told in the perspective of William. His character is kind-hearted and has similar beliefs that aligns with Evelyn’s. They initially maintain a professional relationship, as neither of them desire to be married, which is something that most young people want during this time period. I liked William, as he was a breath of fresh air in a love interest. He allows Evelyn to have her independence and make decisions for herself, which further shows Evelyn as a confident and strong-willed protagonist.
At the forefront of this love story is the experience of the war. It was interesting to read about the intricate details of what occurs when helping the wounded, and it was obvious that a lot of research went into ensuring all the facts were accurate. The setting of Egypt during the war was confronting and realistic. I got a good sense of the atmosphere and could easily feel the emotions of Evelyn, William and the wounded soldiers. Hart captured the difficulties of working in a hospital environment while awful things were happening around them.
Although the plot felt slow at times, I got to know each of the characters in the novel and especially enjoyed reading from Evelyn’s perspective. The story was moving and enriching, and showed a love story during the war in a unique way.
The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart is a warm, compelling novel that speaks the truth of women during the early twentieth century. I would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction and romance.
Thank you to Hachette for the advanced reader copy that I received in exchange for an honest review.