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4.4 out of 5 stars221
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 30 November 2013
This story is beautifully told. I had to make myself measure out how much time I spent absorbed in it otherwise I wouldn't have done anything else but read! It is about a young Australian woman's experience in France during 1914-1918 and her grand-daughter's life, each telling how certain times in their lives unfold, the links and the consequences. The background is based on facts about hospitals run by Scottish female doctors in the Great War and about young 'men' (boys really, aged under 16) who enlisted. There are loves and losses but I won't spoil the story by giving any more details; only to say that although there were clues as to what the ending would be, it took me by surprise and brought tears to my eyes.
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on 2 December 2014
I was fascinated and moved by this beautifully-written novel. I had never heard of the hospital at Royaumont, and didn't realise until the author's note at the end that it was a real place. It is a compelling story; a glimpse of hardship and terrible suffering at a traumatic time of history, an intriguing family mystery, and also a hymn to the huge private war fought by women of my grandmother's generation to prove they were capable of living lives other than those that society and the majority of men deemed suitable for them. There's an exchange between Iris and Violet which encapsulates this struggle:- Violet says she has the feeling that men are always watching, "waiting for us to do the wrong thing so they can blame us". Iris knows what she means, and rejoices in the fact that there are no men at Royaumont:-"At Royaumont, where we didn't have a man in charge... it was different, as if we'd all breathed out a sigh and could relax". Any woman, no matter what her age, who has ever had a man stand over her while she fits a plug, or express surprise and grudging admiration because she can change a wheel, will understand.

There is also a love story in the book; several love stories, in fact. But the focus is on motherhood; the mother figure, whether she is truly the blood mother or whether she takes on that role because it is the right thing to do, and whether there's any difference. It's a book that makes you think, and that has to be good.
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on 20 June 2014
Absolutely loved this book,couldn't wait to get home from work to continue reading it.l think the way she mixed the past and present was fantastic ,l cried my eyes out at times and the way the book ended was not the way I expected which made it an even better read!Can't wait to read more of her books .
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on 11 November 2013
I did not purchase this from Amazon but from a book rummage sale. It is a wonderful book; I thoroughly enjoyed it. It goes back and forth between the life of a WWI volunteer nurse and a generation later. Very well written and an easy and absorbing read.
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on 8 October 2014
This is a very cleverly written book that will warm your heart telling a story of the first world war based in and around an actual Cistercian Abbey
Whilst the story is mainly fictitious, some of the characters are based on the women who helped to build and run a field hospital.
I would definitely like to read some more of M MacColl
RC
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on 14 February 2014
I loved this story. A very sensitive story covering three generations and as many countries. It showed how events and mistakes and lies of the past can rear ugly heads and affect the lives of the innocent in our modern generation. Anyone loving a good story will enjoy reading this..
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on 17 June 2014
A well told story spanning one woman's life during World War 1 and after.
It captures the mood of war, its horror and the men and women who lived and
suffered through it. Two connected lives are the main thrust of the story and the
author moves between the two seamlessly with the war story particularly well
imagined. I recommend it
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on 27 November 2013
This beautifully crafted novel takes us beyond the front line of war, to a place of suffering, compassion and finally to some degree of comfort and acceptance. Dreadful injury and moral consequence are threads which run through a cleverly controlled dual narrative.
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on 10 August 2015
This was like reading two different books. The modern story about Grace and Iris was interesting and the characters were sympathetic and realistic. The story set in France during WW1 was tedious, none of the characters had any life. I also agree with the reviewer who said the horrors of the war were treated very superficially and simplistically like a Mills & Boon story. The book would have been better if either the author had concentrated on the WW1 story and taken more time to build the characters or on the modern story and using the war story as a reference point for Iris and her early stage dementia. I started skipping the war parts asthe went on so long and didn't take the story forward.
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on 5 July 2015
Expect to be moved by this story of a young Australian girl who travels to France in 1914 to find and bring home her brother,Tom. He had lied about his age when he joined up, aged 15. She helps transform the ancient abbey of Royaumont into a hospital caring for the wounded from the nearby battlefields of the Western Front.It paints a vivid picture of the experiences of the doctors and nurses and all who served there. Be prepared for a few surprises at the end as 2 generations unravel their own family connections to the characters.
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