ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr @DebsCarr @rararesources #BlogTour #WW1
I’m so pleased to be sharing my review of The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr as part of the blog tour today. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for the place on the tour and for providing the review copy.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Young nurse, Gemma, is struggling with the traumas she has witnessed through her job in the NHS. Needing to escape from it all, Gemma agrees to help renovate a rundown farmhouse in Doullens, France, a town near the Somme. There, in a boarded-up cupboard, wrapped in old newspapers, is a tin that reveals the secret letters and heartache of Alice Le Breton, a young volunteer nurse who worked in a casualty clearing station near the front line.
Set in the present day and during the horrifying years of the war, both woman discover deep down the strength and courage to carry on in even the most difficult of times. Through Alice’s words and her unfailing love for her sweetheart at the front, Gemma learns to truly live again.
This is a beautifully written epic historical novel that will take your breath away.
I love a good dual timeline story and that’s what I got with The Poppy Field. Gemma is a trauma nurse in Brighton but a tragedy has led her to France, to a farmhouse that her father wants her to help renovate. It’s near the Somme and this leads in nicely to the other story, that of Nurse Alice le Breton, who left her home in Jersey to work in the Casualty Clearing Stations in the area during the First World War.
Gemma finds Alice’s letters and reads them during her time in France, alongside Tom, the builder she meets and who she asks to help with the farmhouse.
I liked Gemma very much. She has to learn to be happy again, but it’s a struggle for her and she doesn’t know what her place in the world might be. Reading Alice’s thoughts, and of the atrocities that took place 100 years in the past, aids her recovery somehow.
But whereas I liked Gemma, I loved Alice. I thought she was gutsy, clever and as independent as she could be, especially for the era she was living in, although it’s well known that war changes all that is normal. Her story is moving and heartbreaking and by the end of the book I had shed a few tears.
The scenes in 1916-1918 are vivid and I could imagine the horror of being so close to the Somme and to explosions, and the CCS where injured men were coming in faster than they could be dealt with.
The one thing that slightly let the book down for me was that I didn’t feel like the two strands were as closely woven together as they could perhaps have been, in that for much of the book it felt like two completely unrelated stories. I’m not sure how it could have been done differently but I’d just have liked more of a link. But it’s only a minor issue and overall I found The Poppy Field to be a romantic, moving and haunting read and one which is ideal to read in the year that marks 100 years since the end of the war that should have ended all wars.
Deborah Carr lives on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands with her husband, two children and three rescue dogs. She became interested in books set in WW1 when researching her great-grandfather’s time as a cavalryman in the 17th 21st Lancers.
She is part of ‘The Blonde Plotters’ writing group and was Deputy Editor on the online review site, Novelicious.com for seven years. Her debut historical romance, Broken Faces, is set in WW1 and was runner-up in the 2012 Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition and given a ‘special commendation’ in the Harry Bowling Prize that year. The Poppy Field is her second historical novel.
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