Title: Rachel’s War: The Story of an Australian WW1 Nurse
Author: Mark Wilson
Genre: History, historical fiction
Publisher: Lothian/Hachette Australia
Published: 26th May 2021
Synopsis: An inspiring story about the bravery and sacrifices of Australian nurses in World War I, by award-winning author and illustrator Mark Wilson.
Growing up on a farm in country Victoria, all Rachel wants is to help people. When war comes, she travels to distant Europe and the Middle East, working tirelessly to care for wounded and sick soldiers from the battlefields of Gallipoli and the Western Front.
Inspired by the life of Rachel Pratt, a World War I Australian army nurse who was awarded the Military Medal for bravery, this is an incredible story of bravery and sacrifice.
World War One has recently had its centenary anniversary, and there have been many books in the past couple of years paying tribute to this, and lately, I have read a few that pay tribute to the nurses in the war, who played an equally important and crucial role in World War One, both far from the front and very close to the front, and many were injured or killed whilst performing their duties. The book in this area that I read recently was Rachel’s War: The Story of an Australian WW1 Nurse, based on the life of Rachel Pratt, who won a Military Medal for bravery.
Rachel’s life is disrupted when her parents die, but she goes on to study nursing, and then heads off to war, where she serves in hospitals in Egypt, and then off to France. Her story is told gently but realistically, and evokes a sense of hope, despair and unity amidst the horrors of war. Younger readers may find the story and images confronting, yet for older readers and those studying World War One, this could be an invaluable resource for begin discussions about nurses and women in the war, and the roles that they played, helping everyone who needed help.
Told in gentle, flowing prose, this story is coupled with evocative and beautiful painted illustrations that give a sense of what the war was like for those there, and gives the reader a taste of what these brave, extraordinary and exceptional women went through, which is a nice contrast to the battle stories that are so often focused on in history lessons, or even many of the history books available. Women’s history has always been there but as a reader and historian, I have noticed a proliferation in the number of women-driven historical accounts and books that allow for more stories to be told, thus giving a more well-rounded account of the war.
Rachel’s War is one of the books that contributes to this history and the hidden stories, allowing them to come to life. They are stories that we need to know to bring more understanding to our history, and more of these stories that might have been left out need to be told, for all those whose voices are not often heard. A touching book filled with heart and history.