Calling all bookworms! A round-up of nurse fiction
Whether you love a bit of teen mystery-solving or hospital crime fiction, a good family saga or just something that will make you reflect on life, love and ourselves, you'll find something good to read in our round-up of novels about nurses and nursing.
Personally, I find there’s nothing quite as relaxing as escaping into a good book. Whilst it’s sometimes best to get a complete break from reality and read about worlds totally alien to our own, it’s sometimes just as enjoyable to read about those that mirror what we know and love. These 6 novels all either centre or touch upon what it is to nurse; whether during war, whilst solving crimes or whilst exploring human nature. Some are good for snatching a break with a cup of tea; others are those that you’ll want to save for home when you can really get yourself stuck in.
Healer’s War by Anne Scarborough
Anne Scarborough is generally better known for her work in fantasy and SF writing. Having written an impressive 16 novels with the wonderful Anne McCaffrey (delightful science fantasy, mostly about dragons and telepaths) and another 22 alone, she changed tack for Healer’s War and drew from her experiences as a nurse in Vietnam to write a coming-of-age story about a young nurse Lt. Kathleen McCulley, and the amulet she inherited from her parents. There’s a fantastical bent to this novel and it’s a touch supernatural in places but is said to also be a tremendous account of Vietnam during the war.
The Cherry Ames series by Helen Wells
If you just can’t resist a good young adult story and always find yourself revisiting The Famous Five, Mallory Towers, Anne of Green Gables or What Katy Did, you’ll love the Cherry Ames series. Not only a student nurse, Cherry Ames is irrepressibly curious and just loves to solve mysteries! As the series continues, Cherry graduates, goes to work in the army, boarding schools, shops, rest homes, jungle, on cruises and even a dude ranch – solving mysteries and righting wrongs as she goes.
The Nightingales in Troy: Stories of One Family’s Century by Alice Fulton
Fulton’s Nightingales in Troy is said to be a marvellous showcasing of just what a good poet can do when they move into prose. As this is a family-centred saga that crosses 100 years, not every character is a nurse but many of the stories centre around nursing scenarios (e.g. birth, death, mental illness, hospitalisation) and the characters are very much focused on providing care to those around them in one way or another. The book is structured chronologically with chapters for different members of the family – perfect for grabbing during for a short read on a break.
The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon
The market for historically-based novels continues to rise and the idea of the nursing profession is not exempt from this genre with the Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon. Set in 1854, one Rosa Barr works under Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War. Her cousin Mariella supports from home but when her surgeon husband is injured overseas and sent to Italy to recuperate, Mariella travels to him. Upon arriving, she finds that Rosa has disappeared. From here, Barr starts a journey to find him which intertwines inextricably with Rosa’s stepbrother in Sebastopol and challenges much of her lived experience and expectations.
The Pain Nurse: A Cincinnati Casebook (#1) by Jon Talton
Following an ill-advised affair with a surgeon’s husband and the murder of said surgeon, Cheryl Beth Wilson becomes a prime suspect during the police investigation after discovering the body. Just a few hours before the murder and just a few after his surgery, detective Will Borders is transported past the crime scene in the hospital and recognises the signature marks of a serial killer he was sure he had solved years ago. Together, Cheryl and Will investigate; the former desperate to clear her name and the latter barely able to walk.
Cereus Blooms At Night by Shani Mootoo
In Mootoo’s 1999 novel, Mala Ramachandin is a frail and mute old woman accused of murder many years before. After she is deemed unfit to stand trial, she arrives in her new home in the fictional Lantanamacara, Paradise and a nurse called Tyler is assigned to work with her. He becomes a narrator of Mala’s story whilst exploring his own internal thoughts and problems. Together, this novel’s plotlines explore the fluidity of gender and sexuality with a touch of the supernatural and is no stranger to the violence we commit amongst ourselves. It’s said to be an excellent read and one assigned to university reading lists but does come with a trigger warning – there are abuse and rape scenes that some people will find very upsetting.
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