Today's Book Recommendation is Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson.
Set in 1914 British Society the Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, attend her mind to the pursuit of a career, and marry a man for love not social advancement. But in the stifling aristocratic society and under the thumb of her mother's expectations Lady Elizabeth has not the freedom to do any such thing. She is unable to follow her heart.
Then war breaks out. Here Lily, as she prefers to be called, seizes her chance for freedom. She defies her parents and moves to London. Effectively disowning herself from their name, their money, and their expectations for her. She eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corp. An exciting but treacherous job that slowly brings her closer and closer to the Western Front.
Eventually she is stationed in France and here she is reunited with her brother's best friends. A young doctor by the name of Robert Fraser. This handsome Scottish Surgeon has always encouraged Lily to pursue her dreams, indeed he was one of the reasons that she chose to enlist. Not caring that he grew up impoverished Lily yearns for their friendship to become something far more. But the constant threat of an enemy attack keeps them at arms bay for Robert is determined to keep her safe even if it means breaking her heart.
This is a novel that is definitely for the ladies. In particular anyone who is a fan of the BBC period drama Downton Abbey. Which happens to be one of my favorite shows so of course you can see the appeal. Robson explores the conscription of class and the threat that each day spent on the front could be your last. It adds a tension to the novel that makes you want things to work out for Lily and Robert even more.
I think what makes this novel different from others, that I have read at least, is that here you are presented with a woman who does something that we don't often hear about. We've heard about the nurses in World War I, amazing women all of them, but I can't think of another novel that places a woman as the ambulance driver. The one making the trek from the front lines to the camp where the soldiers can receive treatment. I can't even imagine what it might be like to transport wounded and often dying soldiers between two points. Especially in this war where injuries were so gruesome. Trench Foot, battlefield amputations, and poisonings from the noxious gases that were used in some of the earliest chemical warfare.
Lily faces all of this with a courage that I can only hope to posses in my day to day life. Not only that but even after she has spent her entire day transporting men she sits by their besides and reads to them. Perhaps we could all take a note from this heroine that Robson has given us. She is an example of kindess and spirit that we all should strive for.