Monday, 30 November 2015

A Volunteer Nurse on the Western Front by Olive Dent

A Volunteer Nurse on the Western Front is a war memoir by Olive Dent, a British woman, who volunteered as a Nurse in France during World War One. I read this book for my university studies, while studying about war memoirs and their representation of World War One and the theme of disillusionment often shown in war memoirs. The book follows Olive Dent who wants to do something for her country to help with the war effort. Her only nursing experience at the time being with St Johns Ambulance, she is initially an outsider to the other trained nurses however quickly finds her place and has a very positive time as a volunteer nurse.

So.. as interesting as this topic is.. this book just did not do it for me. I think the way the book is viewed is really dependent on the time period it is read in. I think that if this was read in 1918 then it would be much more inspiring than to people during the twenty-first century. I say this because women helping with the war effort is not seen as strange or shocking now or how much women are capable isn't questioned. I think Olive Dent wrote this to show how much women meant to the war effort and especially how much morale they could bring to soldiers.

I have to say though.. I just found this book way too positive! The woman was happy about everything. She enjoyed every single day. She never complained. She had fun constantly. She loved spending time in a small tent surrounded by a war in France. But also she was incredibly patriotic. She was obsessed with her country. I just couldn't believe she wasn't at all unhappy throughout her two years in France. I mean, she definitely condensed her experience, but not a moment in this book did she seem unhappy! I just did not enjoy the book, it didn't feel real enough. I guess I prefer the representation of disillusionment in a novel or memoir.

It was pretty hard for me to get through this book in the end, it became pretty monotonous and I'm not going to lie, I was glad to have got to the end. Speaking of the end, it really wasn't that good... Olive Dent just left. That was it. No sadness no happiness. Just.. she went back home.

Overall I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. I would not really recommend it unless you have a particular interest in gender during World War One, war memoirs or just really like reading a positive view of the war.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist follows the life of Petronella. A woman who has just moved to Amsterdam to live with her recent husband who she will only be meeting for the third time. Her husband buys her a present of a miniature of their house which she hires a local miniaturist to furnish. However, all is not what it seems with the family and the miniaturist seems to know everyones secrets...

I loved this. This is one of my favourite books ever. That's a bold statement. So when I looked on Goodreads I was surprised to see so many low ratings for the book! I enjoyed everything about this book. What really had me was that chapter at the beginning. Going back after finishing the book and seeing how Burton tied everything together from the start.

What really stood out was the research Burton did for this book. She initially based her book on the real Petronella Oortman who owned a dolls house. When reading this I could see how much research she did by the attention to detail. As well as this, she has a few parts at the back of the book to show her research and give the reader more information. As a historian, I guess I really like books which have loose historical backgrounds.

What exactly did I like about this book? I liked the story, I was intrigued, I needed to read more and find out what was going to happen. It drew me in. Many reviewers seemed to dislike the book because it's so unbelievable and the characters aren't relatable or believable. Hey guys guess what?! It's a book! What's the point in every book you read being believable or just like real life?

I really enjoyed the topic of sodomy. This is something I have studied during my time at university and found it interesting that Burton focused on a man who committed sodomy but hid it from the world. This is something that we couldn't comprehend today, hiding your real feelings because not hiding them would result in being charged with death.

Overall, I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars and would recommend to everyone.