Saturday, September 7, 2013

In Falling Snow: A Novel by Mary Rose MacColl

In Falling Snow: A Novel.  Mary-Rose MacColl. Penguin Group (USA). August 2013. 464 pp. Pb. ISBN #: 9780143123927.

Iris and Tom Crane were brother and sister who were very close due to their mother’s early death.  Iris was actually more of a mother to Tom and yet they totally enjoyed growing up together.  Then came the day when Iris actually encouraged Tom to run away and join the Army.  Their father demands that Iris follow him to France and bring him home, not realizing that Iris was about to become encouraged to be part of a group of women (of all nationalities) who are creating a hospital for wounded soldiers.  And this hospital, Fondation Royaumont or The Scottish Women’s Hospital at the French Abbey of Royaumont north of Paris would be run by only women, some who were early suffragettes (after all, this is 1914, WWI) and some who just wanted to care for those who were sacrificing comfort and even life to ensure that Germans did not take over France. The dedication of these women in the harshest imaginable conditions emanates from these amazing, talented, intelligent women who can do everything a man can and more!  Even the male French officers and those who are healed in this place come to deeply respect what these women accomplish.

Iris is invited by the head of the hospital to help them and she literally becomes the right-hand assistant/nurse of Miss Iven.  She does find Tom but he won’t hear anything about returning to Australia with or without her.  For now he is working as a non-combatant, since he was only fifteen years old when he joined up.  Iris will fall in love gradually with a French officer and be offered a chance to have a totally different future by Miss Iven.  Her best friend Violet and Iris become inseparable and it is this moving friendship through thick and thin that enable both to survive this devastating war that keeps coming closer and closer to their hospital/home.  But Iris will make a phenomenal choice that happens so fast the reader is left reeling for quite a while!

Years later, Iris is reminiscing about her time in the War when she receives an invitation for a reunion; her granddaughter Grace is initially against the trip for Iris is frail and failing.  But Grace’s husband supports Iris’ desire to travel even while Grace and he are dealing with a devastating discovery about their own son, Henry. Add to that, Grace, a doctor, has her own personal crisis at work regarding a protocol of treatment she should have followed but didn’t because of the animosity she experienced toward the patient, for a very personal and painful reason. From here on, the story keeps switching between Iris and Grace where the surprises and shocks are multiple and totally unexpected – phenomenal to say the least!

In Falling Snow is a historical novel about relationships and bonding. It’s about support and treachery, sacrifices even beyond the medical work being done, about lost love and friendship, about jealousy and forgiveness, and so much more.  

This is a stunning novel that is very well written, always interesting, idealistic yet practical, funny yet solemn at appropriate times, poignant without being morbid yet oh so very realistic and moving!  If you love a heart-warming story, a mystery, a tender romance, a riddle, this is your next read!!!! Top ratings for this literate historical novel that reads like a contemporary work of fiction!  Superb job, Ms. Mary-Rose MacColl

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