By Dr. Hilary Jones
Frontline takes those at war in the First World War and in the medical profession and creates an intensely emotional, knowledgeable book that expertly weaves fact and fiction together to create a tight-knit story, very apt for our times. From the cover to the end of the story, it is intensely poignant in many ways.
Discover more in the blurb and the rest of my review and where you can buy Frontline.
I thank Welbeck Books for gifting me a copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review.
The doctor hits the spot and deserves to be read’
A SWEEPING DRAMA SET ON THE BATTLEFIELDS OF EUROPE AS A GLOBAL INFLUENZA PANDEMIC LOOMS . . .
Frontline is the first book in a series charting the rise of a prominent British medical family in the twentieth century. From wars to a pandemic, the discovery of penicillin to the birth of the NHS, successive generations of the Burnett family are at the vanguard of life-saving developments in medicine.
Frontline is the story of an aristocrat’s daughter who joins the war effort as a nurse. In a field hospital in rural France she meets Will, a dockworker’s son serving as a stretcher-bearer. As rumours of an armistice begin to circulate, so too does a mysterious respiratory illness that soldiers are referring to as the ‘Spanish flu’.
Evie is one of the characters who start off this book, which begins in 1910 and makes a shift to 1914. She has a baby and her story is sure to tug on many heartstrings, even the most hardened of hearts. It’s one of woe but also of courage of those around her.
Readers also follow Grace and other nurses as well as tells of how things were from a soldier, like Will’s story too and how they are linked and it becomes about them and their lives and needs to survive and what was happening in the world at the time, that they had to find ways of living in and doing their duties.
There’s a real rawness to one of the letters written, which gives further insight into what was going on and the fears that were there.
There’s the sense of life, distinct of the times and it feels like a lot of research went into this as well as passion for the subject matters. It may not be an easy read, but its authenticity and realism through fiction really shines through and develops into a great read. It takes readers to the heart of war, including The Somme, but also what it’s like to be home on leave, as Will is when he returns to Grace. There are also some lovely heartwarming moments too, that saves this book from being too bleak and in some instances, shows some humanity in the world too, especially when Christmas arrives.
Frontline is very apt for our times, as we try to survive Covid-19, this book also shows people trying to survive a pandemic too – Spanish Flu and the devastation to life between that and war. I think it could serve as something more thought-provoking about their own behaviours in present times.
The book is an intense but pertinent read. Dr. Hilary Jones has also left an “Author’s Note” at the back of the book that adds a little more about what is dubbed as “The Great War” and is poignant, as are the acknowledgements. I agree that there are some parallels that can be drawn from today between Spanish Flu times and Covid-19 times. It’s hard not to notice, if you know a bit about way back then too and thinking about it, even if you don’t, you’ll be able to find this by reading this book.
Clearly Dr. Hilary Jones is writing from what he knows from his medical background, but he’s intelligently combined this with war, of those fighting in it and of women who are not. There is a rich tapestry that runs through it and there is a sense that it’s a bit of a nod in a way to those who came before him and that sits very well with me, and I think it will with many other readers too.