The War Nurse

A Novel

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Pub Date 07 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 11 Jul 2021
SOURCEBOOKS Landmark, Sourcebooks Landmark


Another gripping historical fiction masterpiece from international bestselling author Tracey Enerson Wood

She asked dozens of young women to lay their lives on the line during the Great War. Can she protect them?

Superintendent of Nurses Julia Stimson must recruit sixty-five nurses to relieve the battle-worn British, months before American troops are ready to be deployed. She knows that the young nurses serving near the front lines of will face a challenging situation, but nothing could have prepared her for the chaos that awaits when they arrive at British Base Hospital 12 in Rouen, France. The primitive conditions, a convoluted, ineffective system, and horrific battle wounds are enough to discourage the most hardened nurses, and Julia can do nothing but lead by example—even as the military doctors undermine her authority and make her question her very place in the hospital tent.

When trainloads of soldiers stricken by a mysterious respiratory illness arrive one after the other, overwhelming the hospital's limited resources, and threatening the health of her staff, Julia faces an unthinkable choice—to step outside the bounds of her profession and risk the career she has fought so hard for, or to watch the people she cares for most die in her arms. Based on a true story, The War Nurse is a sweeping historical novel by international bestselling author Tracey Enerson Wood that takes readers on an unforgettable journey through WWI France.

Another gripping historical fiction masterpiece from international bestselling author Tracey Enerson Wood

She asked dozens of young women to lay their lives on the line during the Great War. Can she...

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ISBN 9781492698166
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Featured Reviews

1917-18, WW1, nursing, combat, historical-novel, historical-places-events, historical-research, history-and-culture, family, France, friendship, relationships*****

Julia Stinson was a real person with the kind of background and experiences portrayed in this book of fictionalized history. She was as real as Barnes Hospital, The Great War, the American Red Cross, and The US Army Nurse Corps. This book brings her story to light even as it demonstrates how far (and not) nursing (and warfare) have come in the last one hundred years. The publisher's blurb does a good job of preparing the reader for what's to come, so there is no need for me to further summarize. I really enjoyed the read.
This is not exactly an unbiased review as I retired from nursing after nearly fifty years.
I requested and received a free temporary ebook copy from SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via NetGalley. Thank you!

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THE WAR NURSE is a gripping historical fiction gem based on the true story of American Julia Stimson, Nurse Superintendent at an active WWI field hospital in France.

I was fascinated by how Julia and her staff saved lives near active battle grounds, innovating with new techniques to deal with wounds, infections, and the impact of the new Spanish Flu. How prescient the ties in the story between the Flu Pandemic then and COVID today.

I loved how the author’s meticulous research was woven throughout the fictive elements. Her descriptions ring with truth, and Julia is developed so fully that you care deeply about her, especially as she falls in love with surgeon Fred Murphy. Poignant and inspiring, this is a must-read for fans of WWI hist fic and brave women changing the world.

Pub Date 07 Jul 2021
#TheWarNurse #NetGalley

Thanks to the author, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are mine.

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St. Louis, 1917. Julia Stimson is a Superintendent of Nurses at the School of Medicine. The school “was identified by the Red Cross as a base hospital, to be activated in the event of an emergency.” That emergency has arrived. Julia has to recruit “enough qualified nurses willing to give up their lives and embark on an unknowable journey.” Unnecessarily worried, she is overwhelmed with the response of so many young women willing to take that journey. The Great War throws “together people from different backgrounds and cultures like never before.”

Once in Rouen, France, her skills are put into a true test. The hospital her team is assigned to is supposed to be “staffed for five hundred patients, not thirteen hundred.” She needs to figure out how to be efficient in the best possible way, by scheduling skillfully nurses, “setting up a system of a day shift and a night shift, with leaders for each, (…) based on their experience, strength, and compatibilities.”

Beginning of the year 1918, there are more and more patients appearing with questionable symptoms. Some guess it’s “respiratory distress of undisclosed nature.” As more of those uninjured soldiers with flu symptoms appear, the heroine’s skills and creativity come into play again.

This story is concentrated on the work of the nurses and with detailed descriptions it gives a good sense of what it means to be a nurse during WWI and at the time when nursing is not a career path yet. It is textured with historical facts and people that add interesting depth to the story. For example, Rouen is known for production of wool and cotton which the heroine uses to make protective masks when influenza strikes; or appearance of Marie Curie and heroine consulting with the expert on X-rays.

This novel brings a strong female heroine who dreamed of becoming a physician, like her uncle, but that was not to be for a woman of her time. With someone’s guidance, she takes the path of becoming a nurse, which fits her personality and where she finds fulfillment and enjoyment. She comes from a privileged family, but was always encouraged to make a difference, to accomplish something important in life. She sets high standards for herself and for the nurses she is responsible for. With her strong will and perseverance she forges ahead with her own way of doing things, figuring out regular routines. And when a crises strikes, she is equipped with knowledge and experience to figure some ways how to handle it.

Written with great depth of knowledge and woven with attention-grabbing facts and figures, thus creating a fascinating story about a woman known as one of the pioneers forging nursing as a profession.

P.S. Highly recommend the author’s debut novel The Engineer’s Wife.

Review originally posted at

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The War Nurse covers the transition of a nurse manager from her St. Louis hospital all the way to serving as the Matron nurse in France during WWI. Julia, based on a real life nurse, is a smart, tall, and passionate woman who had a interest in medicine but as a woman was denied access to that profession. However, she found her own way into healthcare through nursing, and was able to use her wit and work ethic to make transformations that impacted both those she worked with, patients they care for, and the overall healthcare system provided during World War I.

As a nurse myself, I truly connected to this book on multiple levels. First of all, it reads in a voice and style that feels very true to a nurse. If it were from the point of view of a character that was a different profession, I might have felt like the style was kind of short or choppy, BUT as I read it I thought "Yes- this truly feels true to an academic nurse!" I was amazed at how many of Julia's struggles from the 1920s still exist in the profession today. Reading this was not only entertaining, but also helpful to think about how far nursing has come in some ways, but also how far the profession has to go in others. It also was exciting to read about such a strong nurse acting as an advocate, and thinking about where is that passion and dedication needed now, and what difference could that make.

As a nursing professor and someone who works in administration, I really enjoyed this fictionalized story based on people and events from WWI. It was refreshing to read a book that honored the women who served, and also to read about WWI as so much of historical fiction focuses on WWII. I definitely will recommend to others!

Thank you to Tracey Enerson Wood, #NetGalley, and Sourcebooks Landmark for the advanced copy of The War Nurse in exchange for an honest review.

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I found The War Nurse fascinating. It’s based on the true story of Julia Stimson, RN, an administration and teaching nurse at Barnes hospital in St.Louis. She was asked in 1917 to recruit and train a group of nurses to serve on the American Red Cross medical team in France, as America prepared to enter WW1.

The story began with Julia describing her life and work in St.Louis, which seemed a little dull, but picked up quickly once she began recruiting her team of nurses. The author brought this historical character to life with details of setting up a medical hospital for soldiers, the challenges the nurses faced and Julia Stimson’s clever determination to observe practices and seek improvements.

I appreciated the research that went into this book, and I enjoyed the author’s notes at the end where she shared the historical facts of this story.

Advanced reader copy courtesy of the publishers at NetGalley for review.

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THE WAR NURSE is a fascinating, intimate look at the true story of Julia Catherine Stimson and the incredible work she and her nurses did to save lives during World War I. Through careful research, this book shows the incredible bravery and compassion of women who find themselves in extraordinary situations.

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Tracey Enerson Wood’s second historical novel, The War Nurse, drops you into WWI France, where little known Julia Stimson insists upon previously unheard of measures of providing sterile environments for both the casualties of war that are under her care and her nursing staff that depend on her for both emotional stability and physical safety.

If you’ve read The Engineers Wife, Wood’s 2020 debut, you are already aware of her talent for merging fact and fiction into a story that will make your heart hurt and hold you captive until the very last page.

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I can't put my finger on it, but I enjoyed this book much more than Tracey Enerson Wood's last book, which was also well written but seemed to drag on for me. Perhaps I just enjoy the theme of this one more. In any case, this is the wonderful story of nurse Julia Stimson who worked with the Red Cross during WWI. Based on real life events, Julia is sent to France to assist the war efforts at a time when medical knowledge is scarce and so are supplies. It's no surprise then when an unknown illness (the Spanish flu) hits and she and the other nurses face the greatest challenge of their lives. A story of heartbreak and courage that will resonate with everyone, I highly recommend this well researched and wonderfully written book.

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Thank you Netgallery or the chance to review this book. All opinions are my own. And I must say that I loved this book. While it was a bit hard for me to get into at first due to the fact that it was written like it was from that time period, it was very easy to fall into. There were times when I laughed, times when I cried, and times when I wanted to throw my phone across the room (I'm looking at you Dr. Valentine). It was an all around great book and I loved seeing Julia dealing with being a women in a medical career in this time period.

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