The Walnut Tree
Author: Charles Todd
Hardcover: 248 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Published date: 2012
FTC: Received to review from publisher
Charles Todd had been on my radar to read for about a year before I got the chance to review the novel The Walnut Tree. I can't really say "his" novel because Charles Todd is the pen name of a mother and son writing team. Ok, how adorable is that? Anyway, they basically have two series going, one about Inspector Ian Rutledge and one about a WWI nurse Bess Crawford. I was really interested in checking out the Bess Crawford series. So I jumped at the chance to review a little stand alone book The Walnut Tree which centers around another nurse and friend of Bess Crawford.
Wow, reading the jacket flap made me feel that they gave away far too much in their synopsis. So I'm breaking a bit of tradition and writing my own.
1914, Lady Elspeth Douglas is in Paris visiting Madeleine, a school friend who recently got married and pregnant. She has quite the crush on her Madeleine's dashing brother Alain. But then war breaks out. Elspeth stays in Paris long enough to get engaged to Alain before he leaves to join the fighting and she helps Madeleine give birth. But she's stayed in Paris too long. She tries to leave for England only to be caught without transportation on the coast as two countries are mobilizing for war. Stranded, she's in a unique position as a civilian to see first-hand the horrors of war as wounded are being sent back to England. Helping out the best she can, she almost gets killed but is rescued by another dashing man, Captain Peter Gilchrist, who helps her get back to England.
Back at home, Elspeth can't forget what she's witness in France so she joins the nursing service. The problem is her family. It isn't proper for a lady to become a nurse. While hiding her occupation from her family, she excels at nursing while becoming roommates with Bess Crawford. Her other dilemma is she is rapidly falling in love with Captain Gilchrist - despite her engagement to Alain.
I loved this little novel. It's packaged so beautifully - the hardcover is a tad bigger than my hand. I fell in love with Lady Elspeth's determination, courage, and morality. Charles Todd's description of WWI is well written. I've always been fascinated with this war as it was the first war that really used modern technology and tactics. I don't think anyone was really prepared for the mass casualties and horror that modern warfare brings.
What I enjoyed about this little novel was that it spent a lot of time showing the reader the war. Elspeth glimpsed first hand in France what war was. When she went back to England, there was a lot of snobbery, especially by the elite because to be honest, I don't think they really grasped what was going on. I loved the detail included in Elspeth's nursing training and how there really an issue with an aristocratic woman being a nurse. I also enjoyed the romance aspect. It was a large part of the story but was just as large as Elspeth's nursing desire. I thought it depicted pretty well how quickly people made life decisions they wouldn't normally make when war looms large.
I read this book in December and it was the perfect curl up with some tea and absorb the story. Although it's a perfect holiday read, I don't think the subtitle "A Holiday Tale" really fits. It's not a Christmas or holiday story. Really, despite the cover and title, the actual story doesn't really invoke wintery feelings despite it being a great cozy read. The actual title The Walnut Tree is perfect though as the tree is symbolic and central to the love story.
I read some reviews where people were less than happy with the story. I am completely opposite though. It is the perfect little book, chock full of story but a quick read, that makes you just want to sit down and lose yourself in the tale. It's a little book that I'm keeping and will probably re-read during the holidays again. Hmmm...maybe the subtitle is appropriate.
Since then I've read the first Bess Crawford book and will review that soon. I'll definitely be reading more Charles Todd books.
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