The Girl from Simon’s Bay
Simon’s Town is on the coast of South Africa and dominated by the Royal Navy port. In 1937, the dockyard is busy with ships from all over the world coming and going, but two years later, at the outbreak of WWII, it is busier than ever. At this time the population is categorised into three sections: the white people, the “coloureds” (those of mixed race), and the native Africans. Our heroine, Louise Ahrendts, the narrator of the story, is of mixed race, and thus there are few careers open to her beyond cleaning and other menial occupations, but from a child she dreams of becoming a nurse. To everyone’s surprise, she is taken on as a trainee at the prestigious Victoria Hospital, the first coloured girl to do so. With the outbreak of war Louise finds herself seconded to the naval hospital, and when casualties begin to arrive, Lieutenant David Horrocks, DSO, is brought in needing an urgent operation. Louise is assigned to care for him afterwards. The story continues with life in South Africa, the loves and pitfalls encountered and, with the ending of the war, the beginning of apartheid.
I became totally absorbed by this book. The characters live, the pace is well-balanced, and the eventual outcome not quite as the reader might expect. This one will sit quite happily on my bookshelf and will probably be read again, as there is so much in it. Highly recommended.