Poppy by Mary Hooper

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Poppy by Mary Hooper

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Beautifully researched story of a volunteer nurse during World War I. Absorbing, interesting - it's another great book from the redoubtable Mary Hooper.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 140882762X

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Poppy is a parlourmaid at the de Vere family's country house when World War I breaks out. Poppy is a very bright girl but had to enter service rather than continuing on to college after school because her family is poor. But the war is changing everything - even for working class girls - and Poppy's old teacher sees an opportunity for her intelligent ex-pupil. She suggests that Poppy become a volunteer nurse, a VAD.

At first, Poppy is ambivalent, fearing the sights she would see caring for injured soldiers. But when her feelings for Freddie, the younger de Vere son, become too strong to handle, she decides that a clean break is required. Accepted into VAD training, Poppy is soon associating as an equal with the kind of privileged girls she has been used to serving and cleaning up after. She is also brought face to face with the true cost of the war.

Before we go any further, I will issue a word of warning: Poppy ends on a kind of cliffhanger. I'm not big on cliffhangers. I'm not sure it's entirely intentional - this particular arc of Poppy's main story does come to an end and the book finishes with a look forward to pastures new. But quite a few things - not least the romantic part of the story - are left hanging and unexplained. I thought this could have been tidier.

Other than that, though, Poppy is a fantastic piece of historical fiction. It's beautifully researched and readers will come away with a real understanding of the many ways in which the Great War changed life in Britain. Hooper examines the class system, the growing emancipation of women, the horrors of shell shock and even the early beginnings of plastic surgery. Poppy begins the book serving tea to the gentry and ends it making truly significant decisions about her own life. And readers can feel the change as if they were also a girl living a century ago.

But it isn't just a worthy book - it's absorbing and interesting. All the characters are credible and well-rounded and have stories of their own. Poppy herself is a strong girl, finding depths of determination and levels of individuality she never dreamed she possessed. You really wish her well - even if sometimes you wish she didn't wear her heart so plainly on her sleeve! I hope she finds a more deserving love interest in the sequel, Poppy in the Field, which will be out next year.

Highly recommended for all fans of historical fiction. And perfect timing too, in this centenary year.

Another piece of fabulous YA historical fiction, this time during World War II, is Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

Buy Poppy by Mary Hooper at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Poppy by Mary Hooper at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Poppy by Mary Hooper at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Poppy by Mary Hooper at Amazon.com.


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