Review: The Nurses’ War by Victoria Purman

 

Title: The Nurses’ War

Author: Victoria Purman

Published: April 2022, HQ Fiction

Status: Read April 2022 courtesy Harlequin Australia

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My Thoughts:

 

Set in the first Australian Auxiliary Hospital established in Britain for the recuperation and rehabilitation for Australian soldiers during WWI, The Nurses’ War by Victoria Purman is an emotional story of service and sacrifice, based on true events.

In 1915, Nurse Cora Barker arrives from South Australia to staff a sixty-bed Australian convalescent hospital at Harefield Park, a country estate offered by Australian heiress and her husband for military use, on the outskirts of London. At age thirty-one Cora is an experienced nurse, eager to serve her country and provide care for the men injured in battle, but nothing has prepared her for the challenges of wartime nursing.

Within days of its opening on June 1st, the hospital was forced to expand its services for soldiers evacuated from the battlefields of Gallipoli, France and Serbia. By mid month the grounds of Harefield Park were home to more than a dozen hastily erected wards to accommodate 360 patients, barely a year later it housed over thousand, while thousands more had passed through its doors, having been discharged from duty due to injury or disease, or recovered and sent back to rejoin the fighting. With sensitivity and compassion, Purman details the daily operation of the hospital as Cora and her fellow nursing staff spend long shifts caring for men, many with gruesome physical injuries and fragile mental health, while contending with their own exhaustion, home sickness, and emotional distress. The determination of the nurses to do everything they can for ‘their boys’ is inspiring, and I loved learning about the ordinary, and extraordinary, work and achievements of the Number 1 AAH and its staff, thanks to Purman’s meticulous research. Three of my four great grandfathers served in the Australian forces during WWI and may well have passed through the hospital. (I’d be interested to know if a patient list exists, I couldn’t find one with a cursory search.)

It’s easy to feel for Cora as the war that was expected to be ‘over by Christmas’ drags on. Though she has support from her fellow nurses, Leonora, Gertie and Fiona, no one could truly be prepared for what was to come, and Purman explores how the Cora was changed by her experiences. It’s a subtle process as Cora gains a clearer understanding of the human costs of war, and lets go of some of the social strictures she was raised with. I really liked Cora’s unexpected relationship with surgeon Captain William Kent, and the support they were able to offer each other.

Introducing the perspective of Jessie Chester allows Purman to explore the effects of the war on the civilians of Britain. A young local seamstress, Jessie is a sweet character who lives with her widowed mother and palsied brother. I thought the development of her character was very well done, as the establishment of the Harefield Hospital brings an unexpected opportunity for romance, and a change of career.

I did feel the pacing was a little off, a casualty in part of the nearly five year timeline I think, and I felt there was some instances of repetition, however these are very minor quibbles that didn’t detract from my satisfaction with the story overall.

I found The Nurses’ War to be a moving, thoughtful and absorbing tribute to the women who served with courage and compassion.

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Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

 

Title: Lessons in Chemistry

Author: Bonnie Garmus

Published: 5th April 2022, Doubleday

Status: Read April 2022 courtesy Doubleday/Netgalley UK

++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant scientist, but as a woman in the mid 20th century she struggles to be taken seriously. Denied the opportunity for a PhD after stabbing her professor with a pencil, she takes a job as a research assistant at the Hastings Research Institute. Refusing to fetch coffee for her colleagues, or flirt with her boss, Elizabeth finds her career stalled, until an unexpected meeting with the institute’s wonder boy, Calvin Evans.

“When it came to equality, 1952 was a real disappointment.”

Shifting between past and present, Lessons in Chemistry is a lively and thought-provoking story of ambition, love, motherhood, and science, featuring a heroine with an empowering message for women, still relevant today.

“Once a research chemist, Elizabeth Zott was a woman with flawless skin and an unmistakable demeanor of someone who was not average and never would be.”

It’s clear, though never confirmed, that Elizabeth is on the autism spectrum, candid and artless, she’s frustrated by the social conventions that attempt to constrain her both personally and professionally. I found it easy to empathise with her, given the struggle for equality in both spheres lingers, and cheered her refusal to capitulate to expectations.

“Cooking is chemistry….And chemistry is life. Your ability to change everything—including yourself—starts here.”

Though repeatedly thwarted in her career ambitions, largely by men determined to either subjugate or exploit her, Elizabeth will not be denied. Accepting the role as a hostess of an afternoon television cooking show is a rare compromise for the sake of practically, but Elizabeth doesn’t have it in her to adhere to convention, much to the dismay and ire of her immediate boss, and his boss. That her unusual approach strikes a chord with her audience of housewives surprises everyone, except Elizabeth.

“Imagine if all men took women seriously.”

Though Garmus explores a range of serious issues that disproportionately affect women such as workplace harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, and gender discrimination, her wry humour offsets many of the story’s painful moments. It helps too, that few of the men who treat Elizabeth badly remain unpunished.

“Family is far more than biology.”

I loved the found family Elizabeth attracts. Her relationship with Calvin is a charming surprise, a true connection of soulmates. Elizabeth’s daughter, Madeline, is a delight, as is the equally precocious family dog, Six-Thirty. I quickly warmed to Elizabeth’s across-the-way neighbour, Harriet, her obstetrician and fellow rower, Dr Mason, her stressed out show boss, Walter Pine, and even the disillusioned Reverend Wakely.

“Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.”

Lessons in Chemistry is witty, provocative, poignant and uplifting story of a woman who refuses to be anything other than who she is.

++++++++

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Review: The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

 

Title: The Diamond Eye

Author: Kate Quinn

Published: 29th March 2022, William Morrow

Status: Read April 2022 courtesy William Morrow /Edelweiss

++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

Inspired by the remarkable story of World War II Russian sniper known as ‘Lady Death’, The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn is a fascinating novel of historical fiction.

On the same day that the Germans invade Russia, Mila Pavlichenko (Lyudmila Mikhailovna), a 24 year old PhD student working at the Odessa public library as a senior research assistant enlists in the army. Goaded into completing an Advanced Markmanship course several years earlier by her husband, from whom she’s been separated for several years, she feels compelled to contribute to the protection of her young son, Slavka, who remains in the care of his grandparents. Sent to the Russian front, Mila quickly proves skilled with a rifle, and over the course of the next year, earns the nickname ‘Lady Death’ as a sniper credited with 309 ‘official’ kills of Nazi soldiers.

Unfolding over two timelines, much of the story moves between Mila’s experiences on the frontline, and her time in Washington, 18 months later.

Though The Diamond Eye is a fictionalised account of Mila’s life, in her Author’s Note Quinn explains much of the detail is factual – from Mila’s ‘shotgun’ wedding at age fifteen after being seduced by a much older man, to the friendship she formed with (former) First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt during Mila’s tour of the United States. Drawing from Mila’s official memoir, and other records, Quinn has crafted a rich portrait of the woman that exists beyond the legend of ‘Lady Death’.

I think Quinn ably communicated the chaos and stress of the frontline from Mila’s unique perspective, both as a woman and a sniper. I was engrossed by Mila’s experiences, admiring of her bravery and her commitment to her role, one I could never imagine taking on. There is an extra layer of poignancy too that Quinn did not foresee, given the recent outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine.

I enjoyed the development of Mila’s relationship with her sniper partner, Kostia, and with the lieutenant, Lyonya, with whom she had an ill-fated romance on the frontlines.   Though Quinn has taken some liberties, both men are based on real people, as are most of the characters she encounters, their names taken from historical record, including her comrades in arms, and her fellow Soviet delegates.

It was after Mila’s fourth near-fatal injury, that she was sent to Washington DC, representing the Soviet Union at an international student conference hosted by (former) First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, tasked with convincing the President to provide assistance to Russia. Despite her reluctance to participate, Mila proved to be a capable, if somewhat controversial, advocate (footage of the real Mila speaking with the US press can be seen on YouTube). It’s in this timeline that Quinn strays most notably from history, concocting an assassin who stalks Mila, planning to frame her for the murder of FDR. To be honest I’m not sure it was necessary, though it does add another level of drama and tension, and speaks to the political landscape of the time.

The Diamond Eye is a compelling narrative, enriched by the blending of fact and fiction, and a reminder of the human face of war.

++++++++

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Review: The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs

 

Title: The Language of Food

Author: Annabel Abbs

Published: 2nd March 2022, Simon & Schuster Australia 

Status: Read March 2022 courtesy Simon & Schuster Australia

+++++++++


My Thoughts:

 

Inspired by the little that is known of the life of poet, and pioneering cookery writer, Eliza Acton, and her assistant, Ann Kirby, The Language of Food (also published under the title Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen) is the third novel from British author, Annabel Abbs.

“But you cannot cook, Eliza. You have never cooked. Besides, ladies do not cook.”

The rejection of Eliza Acton’s second book of poetry by a publisher who suggests she writes a gothic romance or recipe book instead, coincides with her father’s abrupt bankruptcy, leaving she and her mother to take charge of a boardinghouse for wealthy visitors to Tunbridge Wells in order to support themselves. Despite rarely ever having even set foot in a kitchen, and her mother’s objections, Eliza volunteers to take on the role of cook, reasoning it’s an opportunity to save money, and accept the publisher’s commission to write a recipe book.

The sole carer for her mentally ill mother and one legged, alcoholic father, seventeen year old Ann Kirby is both apprehensive and excited when the local Vicar Mr Thorpe arranges a position for her as underhousemaid for Eliza at the boardinghouse. Unused to service, Ann has no idea what to expect but she soon proves herself invaluable to Eliza as she proves to have an instinct for flavours, and they work to develop the cookbook together.

“Why should the culinary arts not include poetry? Why should a recipe book not be a thing of beauty?”

Told through the alternating perspectives of the two women, The Language of Food draws on fact and imagination as Eliza and Ann develop what will eventually be “the greatest British cookbook of all time”, published in 1845 as ‘Modern Cookery, in All Its Branches: Reduced to a System of Easy Practice, for the Use of Private Families’. It’s also a story of female friendship and fortitude, as the women, despite their different stations in life, work side by side, and a story of creativity and cooking as Eliza and Ann combine their talents for poetry and instinct for flavours.

While Abbs incorporates as much accurate information as available about Eliza in The Language of Food, Ann is almost an entirely a fictional construct. I liked Eliza as a somewhat unconventional woman for her time, and it’s pleasing she and her contribution to modern cookery have being remembered and honoured here. Ann is young and naive, and her backstory makes her a very sympathetic character. Abb’s portrayal of the partnership they develop in the kitchen is warming, though their situation precludes a truly equal relationship. I found it interesting that Abbs explained the omission of Ann as a coauthor of the book as a decision made by Ann, and have to wonder if there was any truth to that.

The bulk of the story takes place over a year so, though in reality it took Eliza and Ann ten years, from 1835 to 1845. to write their cookbook. Abbs touches on the social history of the era including the tremendous inequality between social classes, the status of women across the social spectrum, and the treatment of the mentally ill.

“I must coax the flavors from my ingredients, as a poet coaxes mood and meaning from his words. And then there is the writing itself. Like a poem, a recipe should be clear and precise and ordered. Nothing stray.”

Eliza is credited as the pioneer of modern cookery books because she was the first to list ingredients separately from the methodology, and to provide precise quantities of ingredients. She could also be said to have pioneered the genre of ‘food writing’, by combining instruction with description. Foodies should enjoy Eliza’s poetic depictions of scents and tastes, though the fare of the 1800’s, which relied heavily on game and foraged foods, may sound quite unusual. A handful of Eliza’s ‘reciepts’ are printed after the Notes section at the end of the book.

The Language of Food is an engaging historical novel, and I appreciated learning about the beginnings of the modern recipe book.

+++++++++

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Review: The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

 

Title: The Kitchen Front

Author: Jennifer Ryan

Published: 3rd March 2022, Pan Macmillan UK

Status: Read March 2022 courtesy Pan Macmillan/Netgalley 

+++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

Loosely inspired by true events, The Kitchen Front is an enjoyable historical novel from Jennifer Ryan set in England during WWll.

Two years into WWII, food shortages have hit England hard and with rationing imposed, women are urged to make do with what they have when it comes to feeding their families. Advice comes from all quarters, including cooking demonstrations sponsored by the Ministry for Food, and weekly radio shows like the BBC’s ‘The Kitchen Front’, which is hosted by Ambrose Hart, a former travel writer obviously a little out of his depth. To increase their appeal to the housewives of Britain, the BBC asks Hart to hold a wartime cooking contest in his local village of Fenley, on London’s outskirts. Open to ‘professional’ cooks, three rounds over three months-Starter, Main and Dessert- scored out of ten will decide a winner who will become Hart’s cohost on the ‘The Kitchen Front’.

Five women join the competition-estranged sisters Lady Gwendoline Strickland and and war widowed mother of three boys, Audrey Langdon; manor house cook, Mrs Quince and her young assistant Nell Brown; and displaced Cordon Bleu trained chef, Zelda DuPont. All are determined to win, the prize offering each of them something they need.

Predictably, though not disappointingly so, the contest and its reward comes to matter less as the women are pushed together due to a series of circumstances, some convenient, others dramatic. Emphasising the themes of integrity, friendship and community, the women find the goals they hope to achieve through winning the competition-purpose, money, independence, and career ambition-are best met with the support of each other.

Along with the challenges of wartime on the home front, Ryan touches on many issues such as grief, domestic violence, patriotism and corruption. There’s romance for Nell too when she meets a handsome Italian prisoner of war billeted to Fenley Hall. I thought the pace was good and the story elements well balanced.

I found the details about rationing and wartime menus to be fascinating. Recent grocery store shortages and price rises due to CoVid and other disasters have been a struggle to cope with, I can’t imagine their struggle, or that I’d have any luck convincing my family to eat sheep head stew or whale meat pie (recipes for both, and more, are included in the book).

Celebrating women and friendship, The Kitchen Front is a pleasant, heartwarming read.

+++++++++

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Review: The Islands by Emily Brugman

 

Title: The Islands

Author: Emily Brugman

Published: 1st February 2022, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read February 2022 courtesy Allen & Unwin

+++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

“A wreck. That was what they called it, when they washed up like that. A wreck of shearwaters. To travel so far, thought Onni, and all for nothing.”

Emily Brugman’s debut, The Islands, is a beautifully told, poignant tale of loss, migration and belonging. Unfolding over several decades, beginning in the late 1950’s, it relates the events in the lives of the Saari family, revealing key moments of adversity and growth, tragedy and joy.

Set largely amongst the Abrolhos Islands off the coast of Western Australia, Finnish immigrants, Onni Saari and and his wife Alva, join the tiny seasonal cray fishing community on Little Rat Island after Onni’s brother is lost at sea.

Onni works hard to provide for his family, though always wary of meeting the same fate as his brother.

Alva easily takes to life on the island, she enjoys making their small corrugated iron hut a home, helping her husband when needed, and the friendship of the crayfisher’s wives, all of them Finns, but never learns to swim.

To Hilda, Little Rat is home, but when she is five, she and Alva are forced to spend most of each year in Geraldton so that Hilda can attend school. It’s a difficult transition for them both, and when, citing injury, Onni sells the fishing lease in 1975, and moves the family to NSW, their dreams of returning to the Islands are shattered.

Flashbacks reveal the Finnish childhoods of Onni and Alva, marred by war and struggle, desirous of security and prosperity.

Enhanced by snippets of Finnish poems and songs, Brugman shares the unique culture of the Finnish immigrants, drawing on her own family’s background.

The author explores the interconnectedness of the Island community, no one is unaffected by another. She also touches on the xenophobia of mid century Australia, and the awkwardness sometimes experienced by the children caught between cultural expectations.

Brugman weaves the history of the cray fishing industry and the varying landmasses that make up the Abrolhos Islands archipelago, which includes the tragic story of the Batavia shipwreck, artfully into the story.

The prose is lyrical, yet uncomplicated, effortlessly evoking character and landscape.

Descriptions of the Islands and the ocean that surrounds them, both terribly beautiful and terribly dangerous, are entrancing.

Eloquent, meditative and atmospheric, The Islands is a captivating novel.

+++++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD $29.99

Review: The Cane by Maryrose Cuskelly

 

Title: The Cane

Author: Maryrose Cuskelly

Published: 1st February 2022, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read February 2022 courtesy Allen & Unwin

+++++++++

My Thoughts:

 

The Cane is atmospheric, slow burning rural noir from Australian author Maryrose Cuskelly.

When sixteen-year-old Janet McClymont vanishes while walking to a neighbour’s house, the North Queensland sugarcane town of Quala closes ranks, children who were previously allowed to roam the streets til dark are kept close to home, while outsiders are viewed with suspicion. As the weeks drag on and the police fail to turn up any leads, the flickers of fear ignite, threatening to leave the town in ashes.

The Cane is told through multiple characters, most notably that of an unnamed long time resident, a city detective, and Essie, a twelve year old girl, each of whom provide a unique perspective of the community, and its residents. Each voice is distinctive and I liked how this approach by Cuskelly exposes a range of reactions to, and effects of, Janet’s disappearance. I thought Essie was portrayed particularly well, a mix of naivety and knowing, that reflects the town’s loss of innocence.

The mystery of Janet’s fate forms the main thread of The Cane, but Cuskelly introduces a few of other interesting subplots including one that involves the actions of a disaffected teacher, and another around the behaviour of precocious young newcomer. Set in the 1970’s, Cuskelly accurately exposes the conservative culture of rural Australia through casual, and blatant, racist remarks, the dismissive and domineering attitudes towards women, and the disdain of anything that hints at counterculture.

The suspense in the novel builds slowly as, without answers, anxiety among the community of Quala increases, and the features of the town, particularly the towering, or alternatively scorched, cane fields, develop a sense of menace. Much of the action is delayed until the last few pages, when several threads collide, culminating in a fiery finish that delivers retribution, redemption, and justice.

While The Cane requires a little patience, it’s a tense, evocative and articulate novel.

++++++++++

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Review: Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook

 

Title: Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter

Author: Lizzie Pook

Published: 1st February 2022, Penguin Australia

Status: Read February 2022 courtesy Penguin Australia

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My Thoughts:

 

Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter is an atmospheric historical fiction debut from Lizzie Pook.

Set on the northern coast of Western Australia, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter takes place during 1886. It’s in the fictional town of Bannin Bay that 20 year-old Eliza Brightwell awaits the return of her father and brother aboard their pearling lugger, the White Starling, after nine weeks at sea. When the ship finally sails in near dusk, its flag fluttering at half-mast, Eliza is told her beloved father disappeared overboard sometime during the previous night and is presumed dead. Eliza is devastated, and when the local constabulary immediately places blame upon one of her father’s most loyal divers, Eliza sets out to prove the man’s innocence, and learn the truth about her father’s fate.

With the early history of Australia’s pearling industry as a backdrop, Pook presents a story of mystery and adventure with a touch romance. It’s the disappearance of Charles Brightwell that dominates the plot as Eliza searches for information that will explain it, joined by Axel, a young German dry-sheller who offers Eliza his company. The quest leads the pair into a number of dangerous situations, including a harrowing sea journey on a lugger called Moonlight through shark and crocodile infested waters, providing some tense action and excitement. I’d guessed where the blame would ultimately fall, though not some of the reactions to it.

Eliza’s devotion to her family, despite the many flaws of Charles and Thomas, explains why she refuses to give up. An appealing heroine, it’s a little unlikely Eliza would be quite as capable as she seems to be in a couple of scenes for a young woman of her status during the time period, but her determination and daring is admirable.

It’s not exactly clear why Axel volunteers to accompany Eliza, other than he is a decent young man who seems to have admired Eliza from afar. Pook provides his character with an interesting background, but he felt somewhat underdeveloped.

Where the author excels with her vivid descriptions of the dry Kimberly landscape, the community’s streets and residents, and the changing conditions of the sea, effortlessly evoking harsh heat, salt air and crashing waves. Though I could clearly visualise Eliza’s environment, I would have liked to learn more about the daily operations of a pearling fleet. Pook does provide some general insight into the industry, and thoughtfully acknowledges the appalling treatment of First Nations people by the white settlers of the area.

Though I wasn’t wholly captivated by Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter, it is a solid debut, with a lot to recommend it.

++++++++

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Review: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Title: A Marvellous Light {The Binding #1}

Author: Freya Marske

Published: 26th October 2021, Tor UK

Status: Read January 2022 courtesy Pan Macmillan Australia 

+++++++

My Thoughts:

Blending fantasy, romance and mystery A Marvellous Light is a delightfully entertaining novel, the first in a new series, from Freya Marske.

As Mr. Edwin Courcey conjures a snowflake from glowing string above his office desk, it’s clear to Sir Robert (Robin) Blythe that his assignation to His Majesty’s Civil Service as Assistant in the Office of Special Domestic Affairs and Complaints has been a mistake, even more so when he is cursed by a group of faceless men in search of a document his missing office predecessor, Reggie Gatling, hid. It’s a rather harrowing introduction to a world of magic concealed from most of ordinary society, an unbusheling Robin would prefer to forget, but in order to have the painful curse devouring him lifted, Reggie, or the secreted contract, must be found.

When Edwin and Robin are unable to locate Reggie quickly, Edwin, who has a talent for understanding magic but is a weak practitioner, attempts to devise a way to lift the curse himself. Meanwhile the pair continue to seek more information about the magical artefacts demanded by the shadowy thugs, despite being assaulted by vicious swans, and a murderous maze.

Set in Edwardian England, Marske captures the period credibly, from the behaviour and attitudes of the characters to her descriptions of London and country manor estates. The magic system sits well within the world Marske has created, and I thought the basics were adequately explained. I really liked some of the more unique elements, such as using the movements of a Cat’s Cradle to cast spells, and the sentient nature of the magic that imbues family estates.

A Marvellous Light unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Edwin and Robin. Edwin presents as aloof, cautious and fastidious, while Robin is easy-going, and charming. Both men are from dysfunctional aristocratic family’s, though only Edwin is part of the magical community.

I really liked the dynamic between Edwin and Robin. While neither is particularly impressed with one another initially, they slowly become friends. Given the illegal status of homosexuality during the period, both men are wary of expressing their growing sexual attraction though. I thought Marske built the romantic tension between Edwin and Robin very well, and the mix of tenderness and heat in their relationship was appealing, though I wasn’t expecting the sex to be quite so explicit.

A Marvellous Light isn’t perfect but I fell into the story so easily, it’s charming, witty and fun and I’m already looking forward to the next.

+++++++

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Review: The Prodigal Sister by Darry Fraser

 

Title: The Prodigal Sister

Author: Darry Fraser

Published: 1st December 2021, HQ Fiction

Status: Read December 2021 courtesy Harlequin Australia

++++++++

My Thoughts:

 

The Prodigal Sister is a story of betrayal, intrigue, loyalty, and love set in Australia at the turn of the 20th century from Darry Fraser.

Though she was hoping to further study the new science of forensic investigation after completing her Master of Arts in Scotland, Prudence North heeds her father’s request to return home to Melbourne. With the health of both her mother, and younger sister, Valerie, worsening due to Huntingtons Chorea, Prudence is needed to manage the household and support her father, a busy doctor. When family friend, and high ranking police officer Everard Bankston requests an interview with her just a few weeks after her return, Prudence is hopeful of a career opportunity, instead Bankston tells her that her father has been accused of providing illegal abortions, and if Bankston is to stop him from being charged, Prudence must make the acquaintance of a Mr. Jasper Darke, and report on his activities.

There are several intrigues in The Prodigal Sister, including what truth, if any, there is in the accusations levelled at Prudence’s father, who murdered the man found in his clinic, and what Bankston’s interest is in Jasper Darke, but in general the plot is quite busy with secrets, deceptions, and betrayals. Prudence, caught in the middle, struggles to make sense of everything, drawing on the little she knows of forensic investigation, and finding support from an unexpected quarter.

In addition to the mysteries, there is the development of a romance for Prudence, which is complicated by a number of issues, including her belief that she too will develop Huntington’s, of which little is known at the time, except that it runs in families and is always fatal.

Prudence is an appealing heroine, bright, strong and resourceful, though still constrained by the societal expectations of her time. In mourning, subject to blackmail from Bankston, concerned about the health of her sister and her self, and fighting her attraction to Jasper, she is under an extraordinary amount of pressure.

There really is a lot of drama in The Prodigal Sister, and I think overall perhaps a little too much. While Fraser manages it all well, and the various threads converge neatly, the pacing was a little off, and the author’s twists, though clever, didn’t have the impact they could have.

Nevertheless, The Prodigal Sister is an entertaining and engaging work of historical fiction.

+++++++++

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