Top critical review
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Too little fact, too much fiction
on 21 October 2013
I decided to read this as a result of a few good reviews, but am sorely disappointed. I'm not sure who the target audience is, and it might appeal to those who know nothing about the medical services during the Great War and who are simply looking for an exciting 'Boy's Own' version of events but if you're searching for hard facts I would save your money. The book is obviously grounded in some research, mainly personal memoirs, but the author has then fictionalised them, with much of the text attributing words, events and feelings to these people - things that they never said or did, and that she could not possibly even guess at. Some of the chapters are either poorly researched, or deliberately kept vague so that criticism is rather more difficult. As an example, the chapter on 'Nurses' relies mainly on the (fictionalised)testimony of Winifred Kenyon. Everything in the chapter is written to suggest that she was employed as a trained nurse in a British Casualty Clearing Station for a couple of years. The truth is that Winifred Kenyon was sent to France as an untrained member of the French Red Cross, not the British nursing services, where she worked as a cook at a FRC Hospital at Revigny in the French sector. It's this type of manipulation of the truth (or perhaps just lack of knowledge) that extends throughout the book. There are also a considerable number of factual errors - irritating to see things like Vera Brittain's name given as 'Britten' throughout, and mention of the D.C.M. as the 'Distinguished Combat Medal.' If the names were changed, it would make a great, well-researched work of fiction - seriously good fiction - Tom Keneally eat your heart out - but as a factual book on the medical services during the Great War is misses by a mile. For anyone wanting to know more, the endnotes and bibliography are probably the most useful part of the whole thing. Just in my opinion of course!