Suffragette Girl by Margaret Dickinson

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Suffragette Girl by Margaret Dickinson

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A fictional look at the suffragette movement and the role of nurses in the First World War makes for an interesting and enlightening read. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 528 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Pan Books
ISBN: 978-0330452649

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Florrie, a young girl tiring of her privileged upbringing, and yearning for a taste of the real world outside her small village, embarks upon an exciting new life as part of the Suffragette movement in London. With a degree of feistiness and intelligence unusual for a woman of her age, she soon finds herself taking risks she never imagined and paying the price when she is caught. This in itself could be an intriguing and self-contained story, but it is only part of the adventure in this book, as before the movement can make much real headway, war breaks out and things immediately change. With her underage brother volunteering to head to the continent, Florrie is determined to do her part to help him and the other troops putting their lives in danger, and volunteers as a nurse, quickly finding herself stationed in the thick of things in France.

Covering a period from 1912 to 1932, the book gives an interesting and well-researched insight into the life of a young woman during the pre- and post-war period, as well as during the fighting itself. Set in Lincolnshire, London, France and Switzerland, the action is interspersed with descriptions of the surroundings that really help transport you not only back in time but also to the different locations.

I don't normally go for historical fiction, but I found this a super read. It was refreshing to have a heroine obsessed with slightly less material things than nice clothes and make-up (yes, I am normally a chick-lit reader) though some things such as boy craziness clearly have not changed much over the years. The book was fast-paced, with lots of sections beginning along the lines of 3 months later... so you do jump around a bit, but only to the parts where the action is. This also helped it seem a little more realistic than if everything happened over consecutive days or weeks.

I thought there were some very interesting characters in the book, even some of the minor ones like the nursing staff. Florrie's grandmother, Augusta, was as brilliant as her father Edgar was horrid, and the character of Ernst, a Swiss doctor working with the nurses on the front line, was intriguing.

I wouldn't like to comment on the historical accuracy of the book as I know very little about this period, but from the note at the end it does appear to have been well researched, perhaps then mixed with a little creative license. It was certainly more interesting than my school history lessons, and the romantic intrigue mixed with the heart-wrenching stories from the field and the constant flitting between feelings of hope and despair made it a great read. It's one that will make you cry more than it will make you laugh (though the ending, finally, made me smile), but it's highly recommended.

Thanks to the publishers for sending us a copy of this book.

Sing as We Go by the same author but set around the time of the next war, is another recommended read.

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