The Audacity of Hope

11 Sep

The Roses of No Man's Land by Lyn MacDonald

Hello folks, Amy here. I just wanted to share my latest ‘good read’ with you all. For those of you who like your non-fiction and British history in particular, it may not be news to you that Lyn MacDonald writes fantastically about World War One, but for a novice like me it was a revelation. I have just finished reading ‘The Roses of No Man’s Land’ first published by Penguin in 1990. It is a brilliant and varied collection of moving accounts from the women, many of them young girls, and the medical men who left behind the security of England to nurse the wounded on the battlefields of France and beyond. MacDonald writes candidly about the war itself and you can almost hear her gasps of exasperation at the audacity and recklessness of both sides battle strategies. As for the nurses, VADs and doctors, they are given centre stage. MacDonald writes with compassion and their astounding achievements in the midst of such horrors are treated with unquestionable praise. The first hand accounts the author has accumulated are both touching and full of humour, each woman seemingly unfazed by her own contribution to the war. Throughout the book you really start to build up a relationship with each individual – I found it quite emotional turning the last page and realised with sadness that many of the people alive between the pages are now probably no longer with us since the book is 20 years old. It was quite a humbling experience reading this book; I learnt a lot about a hidden aspect of a period in British history that, at school, was always overshadowed by studies of politics and war poetry. That’s not to say the latter are irrelevant, only that to hear about the war through the words of those who lived it, from women in particular, really made the subject come alive – you could almost hear the shells screaming overhead, the chugg of the field ambulance struggling forward in the mud and you could feel the fear, the exhaustion and the eventual elation of victory. A spectacular read.

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