5 Stars Out Of 5
Excellent story; in-depth look at Civil War nurses
May 18, 2014
An Old Fashioned Girl
The first of her Heroines Behind the Lines, Wedded to War highlights author Jocelyn Green's in-depth look at nursing in the Civil War through her headstrong heroine Charlotte Waverly.
The treatment of female nurses in the Civil War was appalling. It never occurred to me that at one time, nursing in America, especially when involving the military, was man's domain. The conditions and trials women had to deal with to help people were shocking; many surgeons, not actually allowed to bar them from helping, made the women's lives as miserable as possible to drive them away.
Normally I would consider the fewer the number of viewpoints in a story the better, but Green uses her secondary characters - all six viewpoints besides Charlotte's - well; not only do they advance the plot, but they provide a more complete picture of the times. Ruby O'Flannery, whose viewpoint is second only to Charlotte, highlights the poor immigrants of New York, giving us a glimpse of how easily their poor living could spiral downward until there were no options left. Her downtrodden personality and circumstances provide a foil to Charlotte's wealthy upbringing and bold approach to life. Mr. Olmsted acts as a conduit for the Sanitary Commission, giving us a greater picture of its behind-the-scenes triumphs and frustrations and the fight to convince the government of its importance. A young seminary student out to prove his worth, Edward Goodrich offers one more minor - but terribly important - view to the carnage of war: he is a chaplain, expected to bring healing to these wounded soldiers' souls, but he can't himself see God among the carnage and despair of war, let alone feel he can show God to these men. The doubts that assail him are the sort that could plague any believer when faced with something so far removed from our safe, peaceful Christianity.
By deliberately choosing a profession that highlights her weakness - dealing with illness of any kind - Charlotte encourages us to overcome our fears, follow our dreams, and keep doing what is right, even when it seems everyone is against us. Boldly she fights for the right to help people, defying age and beauty restrictions, disrespectful doctors, and discouragement from her set in society. Do not be discouraged when it is hard; as Charlotte says, "Just because something is difficult doesn't mean it isn't worth doing," (275).
Green portrays the determination of the female nurses in compelling narrative, while providing a harshly realistic view of their duties in the Civil War. Though there is romance, it is secondary to Charlotte's fascinating calling. A powerful tale - 5 out of 5 stars!