book review: The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd

This is a moving, beautifully written story with a protagonist you quickly come to care deeply about. Lady Elspeth Douglas is in France when World War I breaks out, and in the course of making her way back to England, the suffering she sees among the first soldiers returning from the front impels her to join Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. Knowing her guardian would believe that this service is beneath a woman of her class, she signs up without getting his permission or revealing her rank to anyone. It turns out that she has a true gift and passion for nursing; she takes pride in her work and in serving her country and feels, for the first time in her life, that she is truly doing something worthwhile. Her newfound sense of purpose and of herself is threatened, however, when word gets back to her guardian about her nursing career. To complicate matters, her French fiancé has been wounded and captured by the Germans, and even as she has anxiously awaited news of him, she has, despite all her efforts, become increasingly attached to one of her patients, a Scottish captain who was a childhood friend and would like to be much, much more. This book can be read and enjoyed purely for its characters, romance, and historical elements, but it is also a thought-provoking exploration of issues such as honor, duty, class, gender roles, and how we give our lives meaning.

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