Top positive review
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A superb historical novel based on fact about American Nurses in World War 2
on 25 June 2013
****.5 Rating 4.5
A Pledge of Silence is a superb fictional novel relating to the experiences of military nurses caught up in the fall of the Philippines during WW II to Japanese forces.
In 2000, Little River, Michigan, Margie Porter, nee Bauer, 81 years old, has just been to the funeral of her only daughter Barbara. Upset and grieving, she returns alone to the old family home to retrieve her mementos from the 1940s and is transported back in time to the memories of when she was a seventeen year old, going out with her childhood sweetheart, Abe.
Always yearning to be a fashion designer, instead she follows her Father's wishes to study nursing; a career, which ends up disastrously. On completing her course, she is unable to follow her friend, Evelyn into Naval Nursing and she signs up as a Reserve Nurse; one of 22,000 nurses who apply. She is accepted and finds herself in the enchanting Philippines, where the hours are short and the free time is spent, now single, socialising with friends, including Evelyn, and the military doctors. There she meets Surgeon Royce Sherman, and falls in love.
On first meeting Evelyn's boyfriend Max Renaldo, Margie takes an instant dislike to him; little knowing how much he will feature in her life and the consequences she then endures. Although he is an excellent surgeon, he is egotistical, arrogant and has a flawed character.
All too quickly, the luxurious life ceases when the Japanese forces invade. Warning signs of the impending invasion were ignored and death and destruction are now everywhere. The survivors feel abandoned by General McArthur; left without military cover and supplies. The trials and experiences suffered by the American forces, including the nurses, medical staff and civilians are horrifying. Being moved from one medical facility to another and operating under horrendous conditions until at last there is only the stronghold of Corregidor, but even that eventually won't stand the bombardment of the enemy guns. Taken prisoner with the other survivors in 1942 they are tortured, beaten and raped by Japanese guards, who largely do not hold POW lives of value. Loved one, friends and many, many patients do not survive and their loss is felt keenly. I won't give away the plot as A Pledge of Silence is a "must read".
Although slow paced at first, whilst Flora J. Solomon cleverly introduces the young, immature and naive Margie it soon picks up pace, contrasting the luxurious lifestyle to the depredation, which takes place almost overnight. It is a nightmare, where quick decisions have an everlasting impact on lives. Solomon takes the difficult subject of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, not recognised or understood in WW 11, and gives a sympathetic account of its effects on the individuals, families and friends. The situation made worse by the treatment of the American military and the signing of "The Pledge of Silence" for POWs.
I really enjoyed The Pledge of Silence and the developing characters by Flora J. Solomon, it brought me a history that I did not know much about and the effects it had on the survivors and families. The characters are handled with empathy and although you may not agree with some of the individual's actions, on most occasions you can understand why. "An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour". I will remember the novel and this adage for a long, long time.
I received a copy of The Pledge of Silence from NetGalley, for an honest review. Thank you.