The Swiss Nurse

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Pub Date Apr 18 2023 | Archive Date May 18 2023

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Based on the true story of an astonishingly brave woman who saved hundreds of mothers and their children during the Spanish Civil War and World War II.

Elisabeth Eidenbenz left Switzerland in 1937 to aid children orphaned during the Spanish Civil War. Now, her work has led her to France, where she’s determined to provide expectant mothers and their unborn children a refuge amid one of the worst humanitarian crises of the twentieth century.

Desperate to escape the invasion of Franco’s Fascist troops, Isabel Dueñas becomes one of many Spanish patriots fleeing their country. She leaves behind her husband as he fights for democracy, and she seeks asylum in a refugee camp across the border in France. Without adequate shelter, clean drinking water, or medical care, Isabel’s future looks bleak—until she meets Elisabeth.

When Germany invades Poland, an avalanche of humanity sweeps into France. In the cascade of crises that follow, Isabel and Elisabeth learn the cost and the unexpected joy of sacrifice.

Based on the true stories of refugees and the woman who risked everything to save them, The Swiss Nurse shares a message of love and strength amid one of history’s often overlooked conflicts.

  • World War II historical fiction inspired by true events
  • Includes discussion questions for book clubs, a historical timeline, and notes from the author
  • Book length: 85,000 words
  • Also by author: Auschwitz LullabyChildren of the StarsRemember MeThe Librarian of Saint-Malo, The Teacher of Warsaw

Based on the true story of an astonishingly brave woman who saved hundreds of mothers and their children during the Spanish Civil War and World War II.

Elisabeth Eidenbenz left Switzerland in 1937 to...

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ISBN 9781400236053
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Average rating from 57 members

Featured Reviews

This novel takes place during the Spanish Civil War and the days leading up to World War II. Mario Escobar has taken real personalities from the era and built a novel around things these people accomplished to help the disenfranchised and refugees from Spain. The particular character, Elisabeth Eidenbenz, saw a great need among the Spanish refugees in France, and worked as hard as she could to fulfill that need with a maternity hospital. She was outspoken, bold, and took no prisoners (so to speak) where fulfilling these needs was a necessity rather than a luxury. The biggest need she filled was creating a maternity hospital for the expectant mothers.

Isabel is one of the refugees who ends up needing the maternity hospital, especially after being malnourished in the refugee camp. She is unsure where her husband, Peter is, but eventually finds him. Peter spent an inordinate amount of time in prison camps in France for various slights against the powers that be at the time.

Elisabeth, Isabel, and Peter have their own story lines throughout the plot, so it's like three plots in one cohesive novel. This is the kind of book that takes contemplation to sense all of the nuances of the times and events, the twists and turns of the plot, and the absolute horror that was going to be coming to France in the near future.

For Isabel and Peter, and later their daughter Lisa, they not only had to get out of Spain, but they also had to find passage from France to America. The State Department thwarted every attempt until they finally relented and gave them the Visas and documentation they needed to leave France, but they had to leave under assumed identities to get away from the camps.

I found this book to be compelling and hard to put down. It stretched my knowledge of World War II and the surrounding events and put faces and voices on people who would otherwise have no representation. Elisabeth is based on an historical person who did many of the things outlined in the book. I give it Five Stars.

Harper Muse provided the copy I read for this review. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

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This book was fantastic! I really enjoyed it and it kept me guessing throughout, which is difficult for most books to do. I felt like I connected with the characters and really enjoyed the plot!

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A fascinating and gripping tale during the war. A gripping, well-written descriptive novel. I fell in love with both the characters and the story.

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I have read every book Mario Escobar has ever written, and I will continue to do so. Forever. He has written many novels, but I believe this one might be his best yet! This novel is so incredibly inspiring and heart-aching and, what is most incredible - based on a true individual and her courage, compassion and ingenuity was astounding! An excellent story by one of the top WWII fiction authors, but I think anyone regardless of whether they like historical fiction or not should read and would enjoy this wonderful novel. Wonderful, captivating writing gives this novel the depth and ability to pull in any reader. Vivid, descriptive story-telling, with interesting characters that have depth to them, and are skillfully rendered. Mr. Escobar has done a lot of research, and it shows. I highly recommend this author and all of his other books I have read have been nothing less than fantastic. He is definitely an auto-buy author for me, and I can't wait to own this novel in print.

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A fan of Mario Escobar, I was delighted to have the opportunity to read The Swiss Nurse. Given the title and the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, I expected to read about the raw human tale of a Swiss nurse trying to help orphans and pregnant women who were refugees. And while that is true, the author weaves in the plight of Spanish refugees, an American who believes in democracy, and those who would take advantage of the plight of the unfortunate, While the impetus for the plot is the Spanish Civil War, the dawning of World War II rears its ugly head as well. All is tied together by the deft writing of Mr. Escobar. Well done. You won't be able to put it down.

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Set during the Spanish Civil War, The Swiss Nurse is told from three perspectives and based on a true story which makes it all the more harrowing, intense and heart rending. Author Mario Escobar's multi-sensory writing tugged and gnawed at my heart and mind, engaging me the entire time. I usually did not like what I visualized but am so grateful to have experienced this powerful story.

Elizabeth left Switzerland for France and encountered horrors all along. Her goal was to provide medical care for pregnant women who were in dire situations during a tremendously horrible time in history. With very limited materials and medication she organized a maternity hospital and saved the lives of many women and their babies. Isabel was one such woman who had fled Spain and became a refugee. Her husband Peter was imprisoned in one terrible camp after another, enduring hardship after hardship. He and Isabel always wondered whether the other spouse was alive. Details of the camps are described with such care and rawness that is shattering but crucial to know about.

I felt such sorrow and sadness reading this. Though there are occasional glimmers of hope, pain and grief are engraved into the characters who faced constant despair, anguish and death. Conversely, people such as Elizabeth did all they possibly could to make life better with celebrations and moments of comfort. She stood firm and sheltered her patients at all costs. The births of the babies were not easy, especially when the mothers were weak and severely undernourished. How refreshing it is to be reminded of those who did what they could to give hope where there was none.

My sincere thank you to Harper Muse and NetGalley for providing me with an early digital copy of this emotive and achingly beautiful book.

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Save the Children

This is a historical fiction story based on the true story of Elizabeth Eidenbenz. When the Spanish Civil War was lost and the Spanish Republic fell many Republicans fled Spain. These immigrants ended up in France on the border. Many of them were women and children. Many of the children were orphans losing their parents in the war. When the Nazi's invaded Spain many more fled to the already crowded immigrant camps.

Elizabeth Eidenbenz was instrumental in helping to save over 600 children and many women. She first worked in an orphanage for children then she started a maternity hospital for the women and children immigrants from Spain.

This is the story from the Spanish Civil War and continuing on into the WWII. It tells the story of the horrible conditions in the immigrant camps and how miserably those immigrants were treated. It is a story of war but also a story of compassion for those unlucky enough to be caught up in the war and without a country, without a home, without anything of their own.

It was a horrible time in history, with all the men gone fighting and the women left behind with little or nothing fleeing their homes with their lives, many dying before they even made it out of Spain. The ones that suffered the most were the children.

This story was heartbreaking and tragic, but it was also a testimony to what happens when a woman believes in helping others, and that a higher power will provide. Her faith carried her through some of the worse times.

This is the story of a strong woman, a devout Christian woman but a woman that would not bow down and take no for an answer. She made things happen. She plowed foreword and got it done. If you like stories about strong women you will need to read this story.

It was a very good story about a part of history I knew little about. I did enjoy reading the book.

Thanks to Mario Escobar for writing a great story, to Harper Muse for publishing it and to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to read and review.

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I read The Swiss Nurse through NetGalley with approval from the author Mario Escobar. Based on true events, set in the Spanish Civil War and the beginning of WWII, it details the hardships and triumphs of Elizabeth and Isabelle as Isabelle navigates leaving one country for another. Elizabeth is a nurse who runs a Maternity Hospital for refugees. Together they face many hardships such as food and supply shortages as the take care of many women and children in need. They saved many lives and protected them from the Nazis. This story draws you right in and just won’t let go. Easily one of my favorite books!

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This is a great book written based on the Spanish Civil War about a real nurse, but the other characters seem just as real. The pain and heartbreak that they face trying to save those that need it is so overwhelming and heartbreaking. I recommend this book if you like books that are written about war and the people who are trying to survive! Thank you for writing such a great book!

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The Swiss Nurse

by Mario Escobar

I am so glad that I had read other books by Mario Escobar, because this work of historical fiction started off roughly for me. I feel sure the fault was my own. I am shamefully unfamiliar with the Spanish Civil War, and I started the book too late in the evening. I persevered the next day, however, and was quickly immersed in a tale of evil hearts and the strength of some good people who worked to help others in dire circumstances.

When Franco and his troops were successful in this war, they were determined to obliterate the Republicans fighting for their freedom and anyone associated with them. The result was a massive exodus of refugees into southern France which was not prepared for the influx and did not welcome them with open arms. The “camps” they provided were sandy beaches with no structures. There was little food and no potable water; the refugees were not allowed outside the camp.

This book is about the refugees in that war which was followed up by the events of World War II and the further torment of innocents by the French Vichy government which was a puppet government of the Nazis, and then by the Nazis themselves. Much of the story describes the horrible conditions of the refugee camps and the strength and boldness of Elisabeth Eidenbenz, a Swiss woman whose focus was orphans in Spain until she was forced relocate to southern France where she opened a hospital taking in pregnant women and giving them a safe place to deliver their babies. The other main character is Isabel, a Spanish lady who married Peter, an American who fought with the Spanish for their liberation. Their lives intersect when Isabel gives birth to her precious daughter Lisa at the Elne Maternity Hospital. With Peter held in various prisons and concentration camps and conscripted into the army for manual labor, Isabel stays to help in the maternity hospital.

The author pulls the reader into the horrible conditions and the faith and courage of characters who stand up for what is right. As a reader, you want everything to turn out great for the sympathetic characters. This is, however, a work of historical fiction, so not everyone has a happy ending. It is important to read works like this so that we are not duped yet again by politicians who promise good things and deliver nothing, creating untenable situations. History like this must not be allowed to repeat itself.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Multicultural, Fiction

Notes: Additional material includes: References, Clarifications from History, Timeline, Discussion Questions, and Information about the Author and the Translator

Publication: April 14, 2023—Harper Muse

Memorable Lines:

Gazing off into the distance, their gaunt faces reflected the weary sadness of their souls. Their cheeks were sunken with hunger, and their skin was pallid from exhaustion and malnourishment.

An entire generation had been killed for naught: anonymous heroes on both sides, idealists attracted by the siren songs of their leaders who stayed safe in the rear guard. The only hope was to erase those painful years from their lives and try to start over from scratch.

Argelès-sur-Mer had been both refuge and jail. It had stamped out of us the hope of recovering our lives one day. We were now flea-infested riffraff with bones aching from damp nights spent on hard sand with thin blankets. The starry sky had been our prison roof.

“Sometimes we have to feel our way in the dark in order to find the path, but beyond the fog the sky is still blue, and the sun is still shining.”

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