Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Nightingale Sisters - Donna Douglas - Author Guest Post & Excerpt

I am pleased to welcome author Donna Douglas to my blog today, introducing a guest post from her new novel The Nightingale Sisters!

The Nightingale Sisters by Donna Douglas

I’m really pleased to announce that The Nightingale Sisters, the sequel to my first novel The Nightingale Girls, is out this week!

The Nightingale Sisters continues the story of three student nurses, feisty Dora, shy Helen and aristocratic rebel Millie, training at an East End Hospital in the 1930s. It also introduces us to the hospital’s new Night Sister, Violet Tanner, a woman with a secret. Who is she, and what is she hiding? The other Sisters are determined to find out. But their discovery sends shockwaves around the hospital…

Here’s an extract from Chapter One to give you a taste of what to expect. I really hope you enjoy it. If you want to find out more about me and my books, take a look at my website –

Happy reading!


Extract from The Nightingale Sisters – Chapter One

It was a bitterly cold December evening in 1935 when Violet Tanner arrived at the Nightingale Hospital in Bethnal Green.
Fires were lit in every ward, as the biting snow-laden wind howled like a wild beast, flinging fistfuls of sleet at the windows. Babies cried in fear on the Children’s ward, and even the patients in Male Orthopaedics, usually so full of jokes and bravado, stared fearfully at the tree branches swaying close to the glass and agreed they’d never known a night like it.
Outside, nurses on their way to supper clutched their thick navy cloaks around them as they hurried across the courtyard, heads bent, hands clapping on their starched caps as best they could.
Sister Wren saw her first. She usually liked to arrive early to supper, but had stopped to reprimand a student she’d found taking a shortcut down the passageway that was reserved for sisters.
The girl had complained that she couldn’t go outside because she’d forgotten her cloak. But Sister Wren was having none of it.
‘And whose fault is that? It doesn’t give you the right to wander down the sisters’ corridors, does it?’ she had snapped.
‘No, Sister.’ The girl, a second year called Benedict, was just the kind Sister Wren most despised, with that perky blonde prettiness which drew medical students like wasps around a jam jar.
‘No, indeed. Now go back the way you came and cross the courtyard like all the other nurses.’
Benedict glanced apprehensively at the sleet thrashing against the window, then back at Sister Wren. Her round blue eyes were full of appeal. No doubt if Sister Wren had been a man she would be falling over herself by now, offering to carry her across the wind-swept courtyard.
‘No, Sister,’ she sighed.
Sister Wren watched her walk back down the passageway, head bowed in defeat. She smiled to think what a bedrag­gled state the girl would be in when she returned from supper. With any luck, her ward sister would be utterly furious.
She turned, saw the woman standing at the far end of the passageway, and hurried towards her.
‘You there!’ she called out bossily. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’
‘I’m looking for Matron’s office.’ Her voice was low and husky, with the slightest trace of a country accent. Sister Wren had to draw close to hear her.
‘And you are?’
‘My name is Violet Tanner. I’m the new Night Sister.’
‘Oh.’ Sister Wren appraised the woman with a glance. In her early-thirties, very tall – although most people towered over Sister Wren, diminutive as she was – and dark. The hair that curled out from under her hat had the blue-black sheen of a magpie’s wing. Sister Wren always jealously noticed hair because hers was so thin and poor, no matter how many miracle permanent waves she had. The woman’s coat looked expensive, but was not the latest fashion. Sister Wren read Vogue and knew quality when she saw it, even if she couldn’t afford it herself.
In short, someone worth knowing, she decided.
‘You’ve taken a wrong turning, I’m afraid. I’ll walk with you and show you the way,’ she offered.
‘There’s no need. If you just tell me where to go—’
‘It’s no trouble. I’m going that way myself.’
She was actually heading in the opposite direction, but there was no chance she was going to miss being the first to find out everything about the new Night Sister.
‘My name is Miriam Trott, and I’m Sister on Gynae,’ she introduced herself as they set off. ‘You’ll call me Sister Wren, as that is the name of my ward.’
Violet Tanner nodded, but didn’t make any further reply. In fact, she didn’t offer much conversation as Sister Wren led the way through a warren of passageways back to Matron’s office.
‘It’s rather a maze, isn’t it?’ she tried again. ‘So easy to get lost, with all these buildings stuck together in such a higgledy-piggledy fashion. But you’ll get used to it in time.’ She glanced sidelong at the new sister. ‘Was your last hospital a large place, too?’
‘I was nursing a private patient.’
‘Oh, and where was that?’
‘Suffolk.’ She bit out the word, as if reluctant to allow a single syllable to escape her lips.
‘Really? I have family in Suffolk.’ Sister Wren seized eagerly on the titbit. ‘Where were you?’
‘A small village. Very rural. I doubt you’d know it.’
‘Well, I might—’ Sister Wren took one look at Miss Tanner’s forbidding expression and did not dare go on.
She tried another tack. ‘I suppose you’ll be moving into the sisters’ block, if you haven’t already? Miss Filcher – the old Night Sister, that was – had the room across the hall from mine. Not that she died in that room,’ she added hastily. ‘No, she dropped dead on duty. Can you imagine it? She made sure she gave her report to all the ward sisters first, though. Typical Miss Filcher, always so conscientious.’ She sighed. ‘Anyway, her room is very nice. It’s on the corner, so it’s double aspect. And it looks over the gardens . . .’
‘I won’t be living in.’
Sister Wren stared at her. ‘Why not?’
‘I have made other arrangements.’
‘But all the sisters—’
‘Ah, I see where I am now. Matron’s office is at the end of this corridor, isn’t it?’ Miss Tanner cut her off bluntly. ‘I won’t keep you any longer, I’m sure you have a great deal to do.’
‘Thank you very much for your help, Sister Wren.’
‘Wait . . . ,’ Sister Wren called after her. But Miss Tanner had already gone.

The Nightingale Sisters by Donna Douglas is published April 2013 by Arrow

You can follow the author on twitter @donnahay1
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