The Sea Nurses by Kate Eastham
The young nurse ran across the wooden deck, her feet skidding. She spotted an injured young man clinging to the ship’s rail, his eyes wide with terror. She could see the water rushing up to meet them. ‘We need to jump!’ she screamed. In that moment, a wave washed over them. She lunged forward to grab his hand, but she was a second too slow. Somewhere, deep inside the vessel, came a loud crack. The hospital ship was breaking apart…
1914. Evie Munro is a Scottish fisher girl, working the herring season from Wick to Great Yarmouth. For Evie, every day is the same – gutting fish at the docks, shoulder-to-shoulder with her friends, followed by fresh bread, a warm whiskey toddy and an early night. But when Germany declares war on Britain, everything changes.
As her village begins to empty of young men, Evie’s life is marked by a heartbreaking tragedy at home. Her happiness destroyed, she vows to join the war effort as an army nurse, caring for wounded soldiers on the imposing hospital ship Britannic.
But as the war rages on and the ship comes under direct fire, Evie’s courage is put to the ultimate test. Can Evie and the nurses of the HMHS Britannic save the day and heal the patients in their care? Or will her life become one more casualty in Britain’s heroic fight for freedom?
Hospital ships rolling in a tempestuous sea is the setting for this saga. Iris Purefoy is a worker in a fish processing plant turned nurse. She has always had a knack for taking care of injuries in the processing of fish and also setting broken limbs. The tale begins on large ocean-liners, The RMS Olympic and HMHS Brittanic!
Hospital ships are prime targets for German submarines because they carry wounded enemy combatants. If they are cured or rehabilitated, they will be sent back into battle to attack Germany again. Better to have them at the bottom of the sea rather than returning to battle.
The nurses serve twelve hour shifts six days a week and only have Sundays off. The pressure is immense and the pace grueling. Extreme mental duress is always a factor. Thinking or dwelling on any young patient can cause a serious degradation of morale. Looking at a patient with a limb missing and then assuring them that all will be well is not an easy task!
Nurses by their personalities are empaths and feel the need to assuage the pain of those in their care, but they must effectively remove themselves from the obvious pain of their charges and work as quickly and effectively as possible. Triage is one of the most critical and heartbreaking tasks of their job. Assuring the patient he will be taken care of quickly, knowing that he is dying is heartbreaking but necessary.
The dialogue and descriptions of the nurses in this book is heartwarming and endearing. I found myself drawn to their humanity and abilities fulfilling. Whether they were on cruise ships or hospital ships, they treated their patients with professionalism and caring. I applaud the author in her treatment of this heartbreaking anthology of nurses in time of war. 4.5 stars – CE Williams
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this book.
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five Stars
Genre: Women’s Historical Fiction, Sisters Fiction, Women’s Friendship Fiction
Print Length: 284 pages
Publication Date: June 6, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: The Sea Nurses [Amazon]
Barnes & Noble
The Author: Kate Eastham trained as a nurse in the late 1970s and enjoyed a long career before a change in circumstance meant that she needed to be a full time carer for her partner. Determined to make the most of this new role ‘working from home’ she cleared a space at the kitchen table for a pile of books and a writing pad and started to make notes on the history of nursing. Inspired by the achievements of Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole during the Crimean War she was also captured by the sheer grit and determination of other ‘ordinary women’ whose voices from the past are seldom heard. An idea for a novel was born and her first book, ‘Miss Nightingale’s Nurses’, was published by Penguin in 2018, closely followed by three more in the series.
Having thought that she would never find anything to replace the work in nursing that she loved, she is now equally immersed in her writing, drawing on years of experience and the stories told by so many patients. With her passion for history, Kate aims to continue making visible the lives of ordinary yet extraordinary women from the past.
Her current fiction is set during the World Wars and will be published by Bookouture.
©CE Williams – V Williams