The Woman at the Front

Written by Lecia Cornwall
Review by Trish MacEnulty

This book is a love story—a deep and compelling one—but it’s not only about romantic love. It is also about the love one woman feels for her vocation. Eleanor Atherton has yearned to be a doctor like her father her whole life. After graduating from medical school near the top of her class, however, she is relegated to cleaning up her father’s surgery, while across the Channel, the Great War rages, and doctors are desperately needed. When a countess asks Eleanor to go to France to retrieve her son, an injured pilot, Eleanor finally has the opportunity to prove herself.

Along the way, she meets Fraser MacLeod, a rugged Highland Scot with a brogue “as rich as warm whiskey,” whose heart has been deadened by years of carrying stretchers for the wounded at “the meat grinder of the Western Front.” Though they are from different classes, Eleanor and Fraser have in common a passion for helping others. When Fraser disappears in battle, Eleanor must continue to work to save lives while holding on to the slim hope that they might one day be reunited.

Cornwall’s book is a spellbinding read. The gritty descriptions of the makeshift hospitals in the midst of battle ring true, and the dialog is pitch-perfect. Eleanor’s determination to do what she was born to do in the face of unrelenting prejudice toward her sex never wavers. Even a revelation that shakes her faith in her abilities cannot diminish her drive to do whatever is required. This is a book you will not want to put down.