Title: In Falling Snow
Author: Mary-Rose MacColl
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
First line: Afterwards, she would find herself unable to describe the old man with whom they shared the elevator, other than a lascivious smile, as if he knew.
Goodreads blurb: 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.
Oh, how I love well-written historical fiction! I was a bit put-off by the prologue to this book, which opens with an intense love scene, making me wonder if I was in for more of a Harlequin-esque romance than a historical novel. The next chapter, however, pulled me right into Iris’ and Grace’s stories, and I was hooked. The story alternates between current, aging Iris and her granddaughter Grace, and Iris’s days in France during World War I. Both stories were compelling, and I was never frustrated when the story switched from one plotline to the other, which is something I’ve experienced in other dual storyline novels.
MacColl has obviously done her research, and her knowledge of nursing in World War I is extensive and comes out in the kind of detail that draws a reader back in time. Reading World War I and World War II stories always show me how completely spoiled we are in today’s modern age. I’m not saying that we don’t have problems, but when compared with the fortitude and indomitable spirit shown by the men and women of those wars, I am often ashamed at my own dissatisfaction and habit of complaining about the smallest issues.
As well as immersing her readers in the details of the war, MacColl deals with the issue of sexism and discrimination. The doctors and nurses of Royamount prove that their gender has nothing to do with their ability, knowledge, and willingness to serve in even the hardest situations.
The modern storyline is just as engrossing, with Grace dealing with fears over her son Henry’s health, as well as making shocking discoveries about her grandmother’s past. As the story unfolds layer by layer, MacColl manages to throw a twist at the reader that makes everything fall together, all the way back to the intensely passionate prologue. This is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction and novels about strong women.