Monday 20 May 2024

Book Review - A Nightingale's Last Song: A WWII Romance by Kathleen Harryman

A Nightingale's Last Song: A WWII Romance 
By Kathleen Harryman

Publication Date: 13th November 2023
Publisher: ISBN Services
Page Length: 605 Pages
Genre: Romance

“We gave everything we had to treat the wounded,
no matter the danger, we remained committed until the last.”

On Lillian Elizabeth’s death, Lilibeth inherits her grandmother’s home, Seagulls Rest, but it comes with a condition. Lilibeth must reveal her grandmother’s secret.

November 1940: Lillian Elizabeth joins the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Services in the fight against Hitler. She never meant to fall in love.

Major Joseph Lawrence is a doctor. Sergeant Alick McNavis a Scottish soldier. They are very different men. One will capture Lillian Elizabeth’s heart. The other her soul. One, a forbidden love. The other, permissible.

From the destruction of war, a Nightingale brings hope. Across the battlefields of France to the sandstorms of Egypt, a Nightingale’s voice is often the last sound a soldier will hear.

Now this Nightingale needs the help of her granddaughter, Lilibeth, so her soul can rest in peace.

Although her mother had expressly forbade Lilly from doing so, Lilly put her name forward for Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Services. She might lose her inheritance, but she knows what she wants to do, and nothing is going to stop her. Throwing herself into danger’s path, Lilly finds things she never could’ve expected from the job. She comes face to face with harrowing scenes and horrifying injuries, but she also meets friends along the way, and two men she simply can’t choose between. With friends surrounding her, Lilly grows a formidable force who are behind her as she fights the battles that come her way.

A heartfelt WWII romance, A Nightingale’s Last Song by Kathleen Harryman is a novel of friendship and love during a time of confusion and unease, following Lillian Elizabeth Nutman’s life and experiences as a nurse during the war.

Harryman has boldly tackled every year of World War II, although much of the story takes place on the Duchess of Richmond – a cruise ship that had been requisitioned as a troopship. It is on this ship that Lilly solidifies her love for Joe and meets the other love interest in her life, Alick. The way Lilly and Joe's love story was depicted was both beautiful and sweet, a classic romance that I found delightful to read about. The connection between Lilly and Alick is filled with intense passion and an enduring sense of forever. The author's skill in writing unforgettable romances is remarkable, and I was fully absorbed in this love triangle. I even found myself reaching for tissues more than once.

The author has spent a great deal of time depicting the comradeship between Lilly and her fellow nurses, which helps to bring a sense of light-heartedness to the novel at times. The struggles all the nurses face when confronted with the horror of war are shared by all, but the burden is lightened by the fact that they are all in it together, and experiencing the same things. Lilly and her friends go through some truly harrowing experiences in this novel, but they are all very strong characters, and are able to push their emotions down in order to carry on with their duties and keep going. Despite the seriousness of their work, there is certainly a balance between work and leisure time. For the most part, when they are not on duty, they spend their time having a good laugh, mostly at each other’s expense! Pearl is always on the hunt for her next lover, and is not particularly worried about her reputation – somehow, her antics are overlooked by the matron, although she is very lucky to get away with as much as she does! I did find it rather amusing that all of the matrons in this novel were so incredibly boorish – especially later on in the novel when Sister Maud is not allowed to vomit, even though they are at sea and Maud is suffering from terrible sea sickness!

I thought the author did a marvellous job in depicting the hardships that the medical teams and soldiers faced, not only from the German guns and bombs but also from the vermin. They had to contend with the sand, mosquitoes, flies, scorpions, and not forgetting the rats. The difficulties of keeping the field hospitals as sterile as possible seem like an impossible task, and yet there is some light entertainment when the rats start chasing Morag around the ward. The author has done a marvellous job of lightening the darker moments of this novel with humour. One minute you might be reaching for the tissues and the next, laughing out loud!

Lilly’s relationship with her mother was very interesting. At the beginning of this novel, their relationship is very strained to say the least, but by the end of the novel, Jane Anne has certainly thawed. A great deal of this book is depicted in letters from Lilly to Jane Anne, letters that Lilly has no intention of ever sending. I was left wondering whether, if she had sent the letters, would Jane Anne have been quite so cordial towards her daughter, for Lilly leaves nothing out of the letters. By the end of the novel instead of an antagonist, Jean Anne becomes something of an ally. I thought Jane Anne’s depiction was wonderfully drawn, and incredibly realistic in the telling.

It is easy to forget that this novel is a dual timeline. We are introduced to Lilibeth at the beginning of this novel when her grandmother (Lilly) has just passed away, but after meeting her initially, we do not come back to her until the end of the novel. She both opens and closes the story, but this novel is Lilly’s story to tell. The ending itself was very poetic and truly quite wonderful in the telling. This novel is certainly an emotional one, so I’d recommend keeping a pack of tissues close by.

A Nightingale's Last Song by Kathleen Harryman is a novel that will play on your emotions, and will make you both laugh out loud and shed a few tears. I will certainly be looking out for more novels by this author.

Pick up your copy of 
A Nightingale's Last Song

Kathleen Harryman

Kathleen Harryman is a storyteller and poet living in the historically rich city of York, North Yorkshire, England, with her husband, children and pet dog and cat.

Kathleen first published a suspense thriller in 2015, The Other Side of the Looking Glass. Since then, she has developed a unique writing style which readers have enjoyed and is now a multi-published author of suspense, psychological thrillers, poetry and historical romance.

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx