Here’s another novel I really enjoyed reading:
In Falling Snow by Mary Rose MacColl
This novel has chapters that alternate in time between World War I and modern times. Iris Crane is the main character in the World War I chapters. In them, she is in her early twenties, a trained nurse raised in rural Australia. She had come to France on a mission for her father, to find and bring home, her brother Tom, who had lied his way into the military, even though he was only fifteen years old.
Iris ends up working and helping to set up a hospital being created up in an abandoned French monastery near the front lines, and eventually finds Tom, who is working in a relatively safe situation sorting and delivering mail. Iris knows she can’t force her headstrong brother to return home, and is satisfied he is safe, so she dedicates herself to the great need of the hospital with an all female staff, becoming its administrator, dealing with the overwhelming needs of dying and wounded soldiers.
The modern time chapters in the novel deal with Grace, Iris’s granddaughter, who is an obstetrics doctor, busy dealing with patients in a modern Australian hospital, busy with her growing family which includes a young son who is beginning to display a yet undiagnosed developmental problem, and busy with Iris, her aging grandmother, who is becoming increasingly fragile, both physically and mentally, but wants to attend a reunion at her old hospital in France.
It is hinted to the reader, that some traumatic event happened toward the end of Iris’s tenure at the French hospital, but the storylines of both Iris and Grace are intriguing enough to keep keep the reader patient, until reaching the end when all is revealed. These surprising revelations unexpectedly change the reader’s understanding of the characters.
In Falling Snow was both a well-constructed and well-written novel with lots of insights into the lives of people who had to live in close proximity to the horrendous trench warfare and suffering of World War I. It paints an accurate picture of the role of women in the medical profession both then and now.
It was a very good read, and it is interesting to note that it was written in Banff when the author was given a grant to live there and write over a winter.
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