The Water House– Julia Gregson ISBN 0-75286-580-3
Julia Gregson’s first novel is the story of Catherine Carreg who comes from a beautifully described small Welsh village, it is set against the background of the Crimean War and sheds wonderful light on the position of a nurse in Florence Nightingale’s days. In fact Florence Nightingale herself is an important character in this novel which shows a side of this heroine of medicine which I had never even thought of before having been brought up to accept the accuracy of the historical accounts of her methods. However, this impression does have a ring of truth and perhaps draws back the curtain a little on a period of history.
Catherine was a wild child, a tomboy, who had been allowed to ride her ponies as she wished and who had developed a relationship with Deio who was the son of a cattle drover. Her life of freedom was about to change for ever and she decides to escape to London where via a position in a rest home for sick governesses in Harley Street, she eventually meets Florence Nightingale.
The war in the Crimea breaks out and reports of the conditions for the soldiers shock people, including Miss Nightingale who sets up an organization to send women of many classes out to Scutari . Catherine volunteers as a nurse and despite those around her, she manages to get to Scutari where the conditions are too horrible to believe. It is a living nightmare. Her idealistic notions are swept away as she battles first to actually be allowed to help and then to try to relieve the suffering of the dying men. Growing up quickly and painfully, and learning the hard lessons of war.
It is at this point that Deio comes back into her life and the love story begins again. …………….
The characters are very well drawn, and the writing is very skillful and quite unusual for this type of story. It is very hard to put down once you have started to read it. Julia Gregson writes a fabulous historical novel and I will look out for her future books.
The Water Horse on Amazon