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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Island Nurse
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2012
This was a very good book it was based on the life of a family who moved from England to on of the western isles.It told you what it was like to be a nurse there and all the ups and downs that happened including bringing up a family as well.Well worth reading I would highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2013
There can't be many writers who publish their first book aged 80. That is what Mary J MacLeod has done with `The Island Nurse', and her memories of living life as a nurse on a remote Scottish island more than 40 years ago make for a fascinating read.

In 1969 Mrs MacLeod and her husband George lived in the south of England. But they had become disillusioned with their way life and all its pressures. They wanted to live a life less cluttered and frantic.
They followed their dream and relocated with their young family to one of the remotest parts of the British Isles -- the Hebridean islands off of Scotland's northwest coast.
It was a world apart from the life they knew. On the island Papavray (the island's true identity is concealed to protect the privacy of those mentioned in the book) indoor toilets were still a luxury, while television was viewed with suspicion and even terror by some of the older residents.
Nurse Mrs MacLeod soon became entwined in the lives of the island people, getting to know their stories, their troubles, their joys -- and a few secrets -- as she and her family found themselves increasingly touched by the warmth of the remote community.
By the end of the book, the author refers to the many characters she met half-a-lifetime ago as `the dear, unique people who still live on that remote, rocky island'.
In `The Island Nurse' (published in the US as `Call the Nurse') Mrs MacLeod takes us on a journey that captures the nuances of island life. It is a touching memoir that traces many stories across the seasons of a year, from births and marriages, to tragedies and deaths. Keeping chapters short and fast-moving, Mrs MacLeod crams a remarkable number of vignettes and incidents into 300-odd pages.
In one chapter a window has to be removed to allow a bed-bound patient to be transported to a hospital, while there is a sinister reason behind a mysterious night-time rendezvous at a remote section of shore.
There are intricate portraits of her neighbours, and description of the hardships of island life. The author herself experiences some of those trials, including having the steering column of her car break on a remote mountain pass. She returns to her abandoned vehicle hours later to find a concerned islander has fashioned a temporary repair using sticky plasters that holds together until she gets her car home.
She joins the crofters one day sheep shearing high on the hillsides, where chatter, stories and jokes are shared, and sandwiches and Thermos drinks are consumed. As the bright afternoon turns to early evening Mrs MacLeod dallies, ensuring she is the last to leave the high vantage point. It gives her the opportunity to observe the village and the crofts far below. She writes: "Gradually, as the peace of the evening settled over the glen, I began to see little plumes of blue smoke rise from the chimneys as folk lit their fires. I listened -- even distant voices had stilled, the hill was quiet once more, and I was left in the silent clamour of remembered noise."
The author writes in a style that makes you feel you are right there, listening to the conversations as they happen and seeing the events unfold. When Mrs MacLeod turns her thoughts to her surroundings, she shows a talent for descriptive and evocative turns of phrase. The sea is "silver in owl-haunted moonlight", while later in the year, as the evenings draw in, she drives along the island's narrow, uneven roads "between small lochans with the brown peaty water winking at us in the failing light".
A dozen or so islanders meet at a tiny croft for a ceilidh of drinking, unsophisticated entertainment, poems, songs, stories, jokes and reminiscing about "times gone by and people long dead'. Mrs MacLeod notes that once the small croft is full of people, and with a big peat fire generating heat in the fireplace, it soon becomes unbearably hot. "It seemed to me that ceilidhs were not ceilidhs unless everyone was perspiring freely by the end of the evening," she writes.
Filled with stories that reflect the day-to-day lives of people far removed from the bustle of mainland towns and cities, Mrs MacLeod has impressively reflected the humour, warmth and culture that holds together these distant communities.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2012
I ordered this book to occupy me whilst i was off work unwell.....and read it all within 24 hours!! If you enjoyed 'call the midwife', '12 babies on a bike', 'bread, jam and a borrowed pram' you will enjoy this book. I would like to know some more about the Nurses adventures in this remote island area...it would be great if she wrote another book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2013
A heartwarming account of life in the Hebrides. I was born and brought up on one of these islands and recognise much in the culture, lifestyle, and characters. As a community nurse, it had extra resonance with me, and I really enjoyed reading it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 January 2013
I bought this book out of curiosity as I know the author. And I'm so very glad that I did! It is a lovely book and was a joy to read. I was totally captivated by the beauty and bleakness of the island but even more enthralling were the stories and lives of the islanders. The author combines compassion and humour in a gentle, non-judgemental way. I have read it twice and found it even more enjoyable on the second reading. I look forward to the sequel.
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on 24 November 2012
This book was most enjoyable as it gives the reader an insight into life on a Hebridean island in the 70's. As a district nurse the author is able to get close to the islanders in a way that other incomers would find difficult. The stories cover all aspects of family life in a remote location,some funny, some sad and some you wouldn't believe could happen.
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on 18 November 2014
A wonderful read about island life including tragedy and laughter. I wished the author had named the island but I think Papavray possibly is an island in the Flannan Isles. A telly series perhaps?
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on 22 April 2013
Thoroughly enjoyed this story, in fact I recommended it to my sister and now she is reading it as well. Lovely story, well written, both funny and sad and typical of life on the Scottish Islands.
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on 13 October 2013
Depending on you sphere of interest you would either love this (or not). The lady for whom it was purchased has a background in nursing and so could appreciate the subtleties of the stories.
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on 12 June 2012
I really enjoyed this book too. Their life seems to have been very busy with all sorts of adventures and unlikely happenings. It just goes to show that truth is stranger than fiction!
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Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle
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