In this last book of the Aunt Jane’s Nieces series, the girls are upset by news of the Great War (WWI) in Europe. Although the United States is remaining neutral so far, the nieces and their Uncle John decide to join the Red Cross as nurses and ambulance drivers to help the wounded French and Belgian soldiers near Dunkirk. Their friend volunteers his yacht as a hospital ship, and Uncle John provides all the necessary supplies. They obtain their approval from the Red Cross, their nurses’ training, and their official credentials, but they still need a surgical doctor who will volunteer to join them. Uncle John hears of a medical man with a severely disfigured face who might be willing to help, but they will have to convince him that his features are not an obstacle.
I was very interested to see how this book took a much more serious turn than the other books in the series. Once the girls arrive at the warfront, they are exposed to danger from bombs and they have to witness terrible injuries and amputations. The book is not horribly graphic, but it doesn’t shy away from the realities of war either. Although I’m very squeamish, it didn’t bother me because it was told in such a matter-of-fact way without any gory details.
This story is especially interesting because the author took true stories of real people and real circumstances in the war and added them into the book. There are characters who are accused of spying for the Germans, based on real spies in WWI.
I enjoyed reading about the bravery of the soldiers, not just in battle, but their courage and cheerfulness through days of pain in a hospital bed. It was really inspiring!
I was really disappointed in the quick ending. There is a dangerous battle, and some of our characters are injured or killed while trying to assist wounded soldiers, and then within a few paragraphs the book is done. The story doesn’t really address the character who died or the other characters’ grief for the dead person. The remaining characters just sail off into the sunset and that’s it. It was really weird how quickly the story was over with no denouement at all!
There is not much character development for the nieces or Uncle John. Their personalities are already so established at this point that there is not much left to change or develop in their relationships or character. But there are some really lovely scenes where their generosity and kindness change the story for other characters, so that they are still instrumental in pushing the plot forward.
My favorite storyline was of a young soldier who was badly injured and had only been married for 5 months. He would ask the nurses to read and reread the letters from his bride over and over again. The nieces were so sorry for him that they decided to try to get his young wife through the enemy lines to come visit him in the hospital ship. They have some crazy adventures looking for his wife and their generosity is taken advantage of by some dishonest people. It makes for a great story!
Overall, I have loved reading this series!