By Donna Douglas
Reaktion Books, Paperback, £5.99
The love lines are as complicated and numerous as railway lines at Clapham Junction in this great festive offering featuring the London East End hospital which figured in Donna Douglas’ four previous books.
It starts as a young girl watches her fiancé of 24 hours leaving for France to face the horrors of the First World War. But she gives her lucky keepsake pebble to another youth leaving for the front line, an orphan who is a lonely figure on the crowded railway platform.
When her fiancé fails to return, missing believed dead, she settles down to nursing life in the Nightingale Hospital.
Her future, and that of her fellow nursing colleagues, is troubled not simply by the complications of medical care between the two world wars but by their tangled love lives and a threat that the hospital will close if war is declared.
It is another winner from the author whose knowledge of medical care in those far-off days makes it all too real and whose understanding of human nature is second to none. Her characters, carefully created, search for the healing balm they so diligently dispense on others.