I love historical fiction and World War II is one of my favorite eras. A nurse at Pearl Harbor was just my kind of book!
Nurse Ava Cassidy leaves her Michigan home to serve in as an Army nurse at Pearl Harbor arriving in December 1941. On the ocean voyage to Hawaii she meets Navy Lt. Clark Spencer. The attraction is mutual and immediate though both adhere to the morals of the day. Ava and Clark both carry a hint of mystery in their pasts! But wait, there’s more! Clark comes into knowledge of the possibility of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor! Of course the old phrase “loose lips, sink ships” came instantly to mind and not for the reason you may think.
What I Liked
The attraction between Ava and Clark was believeable and I especially liked that the author remembered it was 1941 and not today–no one hopped into bed the first day. Ava and Clark seemed like a good match for each other and I enjoyed their interactions, but things got a little far fetched at one point [no spoilers]. Both were intelligent and thoughtful with a good sense of ethics and morals without being preachy or goody-goody.
Although I have observations on this below, I enjoyed the story of the stray dog. She cheered up the men recovering from wounds sustained during the attack. I really hope the dog’s story was based on a real dog.
The “thriller” aspect of the story wasn’t outlandish it just wasn’t that great. I thought Ava had INCREDIBLE presence of mind for one just off the boat in a new place. The author, though, is from Hawaii and at times seems to forget that Ava wasn’t. It doesn’t “ruin” the story in any way, just a bit much that Ava (for example)fears she will be thrown into the cane fields. Really? After a couple of days? And, she’s all local now and saying “cane” and not “sugar cane”? She’s from Michigan in an era when sugar cane would have been exotic.
Ava, apparently, also has a phenomenal memory for detail when listening to her new boyfriend talk! If a normal gal was gazing at her knew love interest, would she really remember the way to that safe spot? In a place she’s never been? Right after an attack with bombs dropping? Ava also sure had a lot of time to spend worrying about Clark or the dog in the middle of the Pearl Harbor casualty onslaught! She’s a nurse but has a lot of time for extracurriculars in a moment of national emergency! Finally, there is the dog’s Lassie-like help.
Ava was a bit too modern in many ways. Here thoughts on war were of today. America back then was isolationist–very different from today’s Give Peace A Chance attitudes that she seemed to have. A therapy dog? Saving the whales? (Granted whaling had been outlawed many places by then, but still…). Concern for the fish in the ocean? A nurse, with a strict code of moral conduct to adhere, yet she gushes that she wants a beer? Clark being appreciative of Japanese culture, on the other hand, WAS believable but no spoilers! Modern views are a pet peeve of mine! These don’t ruin the story, the just make me roll my eyes.
Minor Historical Errors
There were minor historical errors–one of which should have been caught. Doctors didn’t do chest compressions in 1941. A minor medical error was that I.V. fluid was in glass bottles back then, not yet-to-be-invented plastic bags.
The story refers to Wheeler Air Force Base. Not in 1941! Wheeler was Wheeler Army Airfield back then. The Air Force wouldn’t be created until after the war–it was part of the Army in World War II.
I laughed at the mixed metaphor of Clark, a naval officer, being called the “good soldier that he was.” No Navy man would stand for that!
Then there was the line “Brandy whined….” Yes, truly. Brandy, of course, was the dog.
In spite of my VERY picky-picky nature about historical fiction, this WAS a compelling story. I even hope there will be a sequel–I want to know what happens to this couple!
The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman
I listened to the audio version.