Monday, 4 May 2015

Guest Post: Donna Douglas introduces the Nightingales series

Today it's my pleasure to kick off the Nightingales at War blog tour with a guest piece by Donna Douglas introducing readers to the series.  I was a newbie to the Nightingales series last year but having since read all five previous books I've been eagerly awaiting the next book Nightingales at War which is published this Thursday.

It seems strange that I should have ended up writing a series of books about a pre-war hospital, since I have no nursing background. I have to say, I was certainly surprised when my editor at the time suggested it. What did I know about nursing? But as a friend pointed out, Agatha Christie never murdered anyone and JK Rowling probably isn’t a wizard, so what did I have to lose? Anyway, my background in journalism meant that I knew a bit about research, so I decided to do a bit of digging into the subject and find out if there was anything I might be interested in writing about.

I had only been researching for a couple of days when I knew for sure that there was indeed a great story to be told - and that I wanted to tell it. Nurses' lives were so different before the war. They were trained in an almost military way, with students spending three years living in a nurses' home, working on the wards and being trained by fearsome ward sisters. And their daily routine would make the average squaddie blanch. During their 14 hour shifts, weren’t allowed to chat, eat or even sit down without special permission. Accidental breakages had to be paid for from the nurse’s own wages, and woe betide the poor student whose lack of bedmaking skills caused a patient to develop a bedsore. She would be made to feel Matron’s wrath!

And yet many of the nurses I spoke to in the course of my research also said their years as a nursing student were the happiest times of their life. They made lifelong friends, met special people, broke the rules and somehow had a great deal of fun (usually behind the Home Sister’s back!).

I’ve tried to capture some of that warmth, fun and camaraderie in the Nightingale books. The stories follow a group of young nursing students as they embark on their new career. Like the real life nurses of that time, they supported each other through good and bad times, enduring hardship and heartache together, and somehow managing to come out smiling.  Even though it's a series, each book can also be read and enjoyed on its own (although I hope you'll read them all!).

The latest in the series, Nightingales At War, follows the nurses into the Blitz, where they find themselves faced with heartache and heroism in London’s war-ravaged East End. 

On a final note, I often get messages from readers asking me where I trained as a nurse. I take that as a great compliment!

As the war takes its toll, the Nightingale nurses must do their bit for king and country… 

Dora is the devoted mother of twin babies but, determined to help the war effort, she goes back to work at the Nightingale Hospital. 

More used to nights out in the West End, Jennifer and Cissy volunteer in the hope of tending to handsome soldiers. They soon find out that nursing isn’t quite what they were expecting. 

For shy and troubled Eve, the hospital provides an escape from the pressures of home, but the life of a nurse is never easy, especially at wartime. 

Can the nurses rally together while war rages all around them? And will the Nightingale Hospital survive the Blitz?

Nightingales at War by Donna Douglas, published by Arrow, at £5.99

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