‘One to Watch’ Good Housekeeping
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Young nurse, Gemma, is struggling with the traumas she has witnessed through her job in the NHS. Needing to escape from it all, Gemma agrees to help renovate a rundown farmhouse in Doullens, France, a town near the Somme. There, in a boarded-up cupboard, wrapped in old newspapers, is a tin that reveals the secret letters and heartache of Alice Le Breton, a young volunteer nurse who worked in a casualty clearing station near the front line.
Set in the present day and during the horrifying years of the war, both women discover deep down the strength and courage to carry on in even the most difficult of times. Through Alice’s words and her unfailing love for her sweetheart at the front, Gemma learns to truly live again.
I have read many stories set during the WW1 era but I think that this could be one of my favourites, it is simply stunning and one of those rare books that I did genuinely have a weep over. The last couple of pages will break even the most hardened of hearts. This is a powerful, emotional and incredibly poignant and romantic book that will leave the reader with a lump in their throats and feeling completely overawed by the unimaginable heartbreak and loss and yet at the same time it is hugely satisfying.
The Poppy Field is split between two eras and follows two different but incredible women who are both facing a tough and emotional time. Linked together through nursing, present-day Gemma is an NHS trauma nurse, she is feeling the strain and is struggling with what she has experienced in her job. She needs to get away from everything she has seen and try to move on, so she agrees to help her father renovate an old farmhouse in Northern France. She only sees this as a break to basically clear her head, she doesn’t intend of staying in France. That is until two thing’s to happen.
One, she meets Tom, the supremely handsome contractor who has agreed to her with the refurbishment; and two she finds an old box in the house that is full of letters from a woman called Alice who was a volunteer nurse during the great war. I think reading about and getting to know Alice through these old letters is so good for Gemma, she isn’t overly confident, she is definitely stuck in her shell and reading about what this amazing woman went through is a soothing balm for her. As Gemma and Tom get on with renovating the house, Tom is very smitten with shy Gemma, he sees something in her that she, unfortunately, doesn’t see herself; that she is a wonderful woman.
As much as Gemma and Tom’s story is beautifully touching, I was particularly drawn to Alice. It was her story that found impacted me, Alice left home and her fiancé to volunteer with the nursing corpse which just happened to be next door to the Somme so she saw some real horrors. The letters she had been writing were to two men, Peter and Ed, both we come to learn are such an integral part of her life. Through her own words, we get a glimpse of her life, of her experiences and most importantly we get a real sense of the strong, patient, kind and utterly brilliant woman that she was.
This book is incredible, it is a beautifully written, utterly mesmerising and beautiful story that captures the reader’s attention and takes them on a heart-wrenching journey through both of these amazing women’s lives. This is the first time I have read Deborah Carr’s work and I can say for certain it will not be the last, her writing is a gift we all need to receive.
A captivating, poignant and beautiful book.
This was an ARC copy via the publisher from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Poppy Field is available now from Amazon and I say that you really must buy this one!