Welcome to a weekly post, Throwback Thursday. This weekly book review post is a way to share some old favourites, books that were published over a year ago and most importantly those books that have been languishing on the to be read pile for far too long!
On duty during London’s Blitz…
As death and destruction fall from the skies day after day in the London Blitz, Australian ambulance driver Lily Brennan confronts the horror with bravery, intelligence, common sense and humour.
Although she must rely upon her colleagues to carry out her dangerous duties, Lily begins to suspect that someone at her Ambulance Station may be giving assistance to the enemy by disclosing secret information. Then her best friend, Jewish ambulance attendant David Levy, disappears in suspicious circumstances. Aided – and sometimes hindered – by David’s school friend, a mysterious and attractive RAF pilot, Lily has to draw on all of her resources to find David, and negotiate the dangers that come from falling in love in a country far from home in a time of war…
I am familiar with the work of author Deborah Burrows. I really loved her first novel, A Stranger in my Street, which was based in my own home city, of Perth, Western Australia, during World War II. Burrows has since entertained me with two more of her Australian wartime offerings, Taking a Chance and A Time of Secrets. Burrows stays with the war in Ambulance Girls, but she moves the action of her novel to the Blitz. Ambulance Girls is the first in a new historical saga penned by Burrows, following the interesting lives of the brave female ambulance officers during World War II.
Lily Brennan has come a long way from home (Western Australia) to serve in the ambulance service in London, in the year 1939. This former school teacher and nanny is a young lady who is devoted to her new role. She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, or face the tough tasks that are put in front of her. Supporting Lily is her good friend, fellow ambulance attendant David Levy. When David, an educated young Jewish man is subjected to racist remarks, he disappears soon after – in strange circumstances. Lily is determined to find her loyal friend, but she too encounters racism, a hostile world and deliberate cover ups. When David’s friend Jim, an RAF pilot, comes on board to help in the search for David, Lily finds she is deeply attracted to him. Lily’s life suddenly becomes dangerous, as she indulges in a romance while the country she is serving in is under great threat.
Ambulance Girls is the fourth book I have read by Australian novelist Deborah Burrows. It represents the first book in a new historical saga series. I thoroughly enjoyed this war time saga.
Ambulance Girls demonstrates the author’s detailed knowledge of London. Although I lived outside of London for many years, I was introduced to sections I was unaware of through reading Ambulance Girls. Burrows has obviously undertaken a great deal of research in her approach to her location. I felt like I had a firm grasp on the streets and locales in London, all thanks to Deborah Burrows.
I was surprised to glean an interesting snippet of period detail from Ambulance Girls. I have read a lot of literature on the Holocaust and the treatment of the Jewish population in Europe during World War II. I have never before read about the Jewish people based in London. The character of David, Lily’s right hand man and fellow ambulance attendant, allows the reader gain a glimpse into the life of a Jewish person working in London during the World War II. I was saddened to read of the verbal abuse and discrimination that Jewish people such as David were unfortunately subjected to. It was quite upsetting. Burrows handles the disappearance of Lily’s Jewish friend David very well. There was enough intrigue in this section of the storyline to keep me invested in the book until the end.
Burrows displays excellent characterisation in Ambulance Girls. Lily, the strong heroine of the tale, was a delight to read about. She is unafraid, resourceful, loyal, feisty and a free spirit. I appreciated the beauty of the friendship between Lily and David. The dialogue that bounces off these characters was a joy to read. Supporting the very bright character of Lily are the fellow ambulance service attendants and young women Lily works alongside. I do hope we get to see more from these characters in future issues of this series. The introduction of David’s school friend Jim to the mix, adds a great line of romance to the story. The romance does not overshadow the narrative action at all. It adds a pleasant layer to this tale. Burrows is much more focussed on showing us how women were capable of doing the work of a man during the war. She also explores the new options that were beginning to arise at this time for women. This new found freedom allowed young women like Lily to make informed and easier choices in the love, romance and sex department during the war. This was a thought provoking section of the novel.
Ambulance Girls follows a rocky road of war, mystery, love and racism during one of the most perilous chapter’s in our world history. Told through the eyes of an enigmatic female, with a unique outsider’s perspective on a war that is raging through a country she has chosen to serve, this book offers a fantastic account of London’s Blitz period. I’m pleased to see a second addition to this fantastic series of books has been released. I look forward to another wartime saga on the integral work of the Ambulance Girls during World War II.
Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows was published on 22nd September 2016. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Ambulance Girls, Deborah Burrows, visit here.