In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl
- Method of Obtaining: I received a copy from the publisher.
- Published by: Allen and Unwin
- Release Date: 10.01.2012
A vivid and compelling story of love, war and secrets, set against the backdrop of WWI France. ‘In the beginning, it was the summers I remembered – long warm days under the palest blue skies, the cornflowers and forget-me-nots lining the road through the Lys forest, the buzz of insects going about their work, Violet telling me lies.’ Iris is getting old. A widow, her days are spent living quietly and worrying about her granddaughter, Grace, a headstrong young doctor. It’s a small sort of life. But one day an invitation comes for Iris through the post to a reunion in France, where she served in a hospital during WWI. Determined to go, Iris is overcome by the memories of the past, when as a shy, naive young woman she followed her fifteen-year-old brother, Tom, to France in 1914 intending to bring him home. On her way to find Tom, Iris comes across the charismatic Miss Ivens, who is setting up a field hospital in the old abbey of Royaumont, north of Paris. Putting her fears aside, Iris decides to stay at Royaumont, and it is there that she truly comes of age, finding her capability and her strength, discovering her passion for medicine, making friends with the vivacious Violet and falling in love. But war is a brutal thing, and when the ultimate tragedy happens, there is a terrible price that Iris has to pay, a price that will echo down the generations. A moving and uplifting novel about the small, unsung acts of heroism of which love makes us capable.
It’s strange how things go in waves; for the last few years I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading WWII books from all sorts of different perspectives and covering nearly every country affected by that war. Then, just for the last few months I seem to have amassed a bunch of WWI titles that are waiting for me to read. In Falling Snow is not the first of those titles that I’ve read this year, but it is the one I’ve enjoyed the most for a few different reasons.
MacColl’s writing reminds me in a way of Kate Morton’s. She took a modern-day story and wrapped a historical tale in it. Both stories were connected by more than meets the eye and really kept me guessing the entire way through the book. I thoroughly enjoyed not only the WWI parts of the book, but also the modern day sections and was always hesitant to be ripped away from the story (both of them!) which is really unusual for me. Normally, I prefer one story over the other, but that wasn’t the case with In Falling Snow .
MacColl also spends quite a bit of time talking about the accomplishments of the women during the war. Women from Scotland, England, Australia, and Canada all featured in the historical parts of this book and their professions ranged from doctors/surgeons to mechanics and drivers. They were right there, bringing in the soldiers from the front lines in France, and attempting to patch them up (and often getting the short end of the stick due to the prejudice some of the men held against women physicians). The setting is also a neat one – the hospital started up in an old abbey that was remodeled by the women into a functioning place of healing.
As I mentioned earlier, the modern setting also held great interest for me. MacColl touches on not only females in the surgical workplace in more modern times, but also the conflict between midwives and doctors and also what happens when sometimes the wrong decision is made. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Grace through her story and I found it to be interesting when paralleled against her grandmother’s story.
Mostly though, let me just say that this book had a moment that had me gasping out loud. As in, I was sitting in bed, reading, and loudly exclaimed “Oh my!” and fluttered my hand a little bit. It was that surprising. In order to find out what it is, though, you will need to pick up In Falling Snow and see for yourself.