Book Review: Nurses At The Front, Writing The Wounds Of The Great War Edited By Margaret R. Higonnet
Mary Borden (1886-1968)was an American, wealthy, and had been educated at Vassar College. She'd married an English Captain. She had children that she left behind in England in order to serve because, "she signed up with the French Red Cross."
Ellen Newbold La Motte (1873-1961) also an American, was an experienced nurse from Baltimore. Upon arriving in Europe she first worked at an American hospital in Paris. Soon afterwards she joined Borden in a, "frontline surgical unit that Borden had established under French military command in the Belgian zone."
La Motte wrote The Backwash of War in 1916, includes 9 stories as well as a short introduction.
Borden wrote The Forbidden Zone 1929, also with 9 stories and a preface.
Included is a French glossary of common words throughout the stories.
La Motte begins by describing the war as, "months of boredom, punctuated by moments of intense fright." "The Front line has not moved," "the air is stagnant" and "with much ugliness." It is with these opening lines that the reader is thrust behind the curtain so to speak, of war and its aftermath. It is in its aftermath that nurses and surgeons care for the wounded.
The wards are full of men whose bandaged--broken--limbs missing-- bloody--screaming in agony--bodies lie in wait. It is the carnal damage of what shrapnel and exploding bombs and poisonous gas does to a frail human body.
La Motte and Borden both write of soldier's who wished to take their own lives, they tried, and were left grossly and painfully disfigured.
In another story a patient with gas gangrene---the foul stench that "swirled round him."
There is the heart-breaking story of a young boy, and whose mother does not seem to care.
There were several pages that were written as movingly as poetry, and because poetry must be read a loud, I read these pages aloud. Their haunting punctuating words reverberated not only in my mind but throughout the room.
Some of the descriptions are dizzyingly macabre. I wanted to gasp, and probably did.
This is a MUST read for anyone wanting to read on the subject of World War I, nursing, or medicine during the early 20th century.
I'll not forget this book, it is more than memorable.
Published by Northeastern University Press Boston April 29, 2001
Non-Fiction/World War I/Nurses/War Through The Generations Challenge
Link @ Amazon: