Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: In the Shadow of the Lamp - Susanne Dunlap

Synopsis: It's 1854, and Molly would give anything to change her circumstances as a lowly servant in a posh London house. So when she hears of an opportunity to join Florence Nightingale and her nurses in the Crimea, the promise of a new start - and perhaps even adventure - is too tempting to pass up.

The work is grueling, the hospital conditions are deplorable, and Miss Nightingale proves to be a demanding leader. But before long, tending to sick and wounded British soldiers becomes more than just a mission of mercy; it becomes a mission of the heart when Molly finds that she's falling love with not one, but two young men. With the battle raging ever nearer, one of the men will fall victim to the great guns. Will it be the dashing young doctor who sees Molly as more than just one of Nightingale's nurses, or the foot soldier who has left everything behind and joined the army to be near to her?

Review: I was, at first, uncertain whether or not this would be a good story with the "duel romance" element thrown in for good measure. In my experience, such details are only irksome and end up making the Reader hate everyone, and finally attaching themselves to That Guy because said Reader is fed up with everyone else.

The romance isn't as annoying as I was anticipating, but it wasn't my favorite. For once, however, I actually had nothing against the two men Molly Fraser finds herself mixed up with - Will Parker and Dr. Maclean. They were fine. Will was honest and gentle and clearly cared for Molly deeply, while Dr. Maclean cared for his patients and tried to do his best at his job. And while, for the most part, I liked Molly as a heroine, her indecision between the two got a bit on my nerves. Though both good young men, the infatuation between her and Dr. Maclean seemed rather sudden, while the relationship between her and Will felt right, and there was something just slightly off about Dr. Maclean that had me totally rooting for Will Parker. I saw it so clearly that I wanted to scream at Molly (and quite nearly did, but was reading in a public area and thought that maybe it would scare a few people if I yelled at the book), and towards the end of the book, I started to think her as a bit selfish for pushing aside Will's affections so many times because she liked the "danger" feeling she got around Dr. Maclean rather than the "safe" she felt around her friend.

However, this does not get in the way of the overall good storyline too much, and if I were not inclined to like both Dr. Maclean and Will, as well as Molly, I would say that it didn't belong. But it does because all three really are likable characters, and the Author wraps up the "love struggle" neatly and satisfactorily (managing to make it sad, but happy at the same time) in the end.

The writing is good, though not spectacular (I mean this as a compliment. Few authors' writing styles are spectacular; good is a thing to be proud up in a world where hardly anyone can write anymore). The Author conveys clearly the nitty-gritty of the hospital in the Crimea and the gristliness of the work therein, but without unnecessary details. I was able to munch on a molasses cookie easily enough while reading some of the meatier bits without my stomach flipping. Her historical detail is rich and accurate, though she takes a few acceptable liberties. While I knew quite a bit more about Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War before reading In the Shadow of the Lamp than most people, I find myself far more curious about it now, and intend to do some deeper research.

This book comes very recommended.

Overall Rating: 

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