A Nightingale Christmas Carol

Written by Donna Douglas
Review by Cathy Kemp

Towards the end of 1944, the East End of London had suffered huge devastation from the blitz, leaving a landscape devoid of many landmarks and a population suffering difficulties of daily life as well as the horrors of war. The Nightingale Hospital had taken the brunt of many attacks, resulting in the facilities available and staffing levels being hugely decreased.

Staff Nurse Dora Riley is working in the basement Casualty ward, and when the hospital board have to accept the transfer of a group of German Prisoners of War one of the wards is re-commissioned for them, Riley is transferred there as the nurse in charge. Other hospital staff find accepting these foreign patients goes against their principles and refuse to treat them. Major Von Mundel’s selection as interpreter causes further angst, not only as a result of his privileged position and lofty demeanour, but being a surgeon places him in a role where the inexperience of the hospital’s own medical team are exposed more than once, resulting in prisoners dying unnecessarily. A rift develops between the rest of the hospital staff and those who are in daily contact with the Germans, as the consensus sees these incomers are dangerous and that they shouldn’t be cared for next door to the British military patients.

In an easy and quick read, Douglas gives good insight into the challenges and difficulties during this period of history. The medical content is accurately portrayed, and the novel provides an excellent account of the difficulties of working in such a pressured environment in times of war.