Book Review: The Secret of Raven Point

February 10, 2014 Whitney Review 2 Comments

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Secret of Raven PointThe Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes
Published by Scribner on February 4, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley

A vivid and powerful novel from an award-winning writer about a young American woman who enlists as an army nurse during World War II and is deployed to Italy, where she tries to find her missing brother.

Juliet Dufresne is a hard-working and smart high-school girl who aspires to make a groundbreaking scientific discovery like her hero Marie Curie. Life in South Carolina with her father, stepmother, and her brother Tuck is safe and happy. But when war breaks out in Europe, Tuck volunteers and serves in Italy—until he goes missing. Juliet, already enrolled in nursing school, is overwhelmed by the loss of her brother, so she lies about her age and enlists to serve as a nurse in the army, hoping she might find him.

Shipped off to Italy at the age of seventeen and thrust into the bloody chaos of a field hospital, Juliet doles out medicine, assists in operations, and is absorbed into the whirlwind of warlife. Slowly she befriends her fellow nurses, her patients, the soldiers, and the doctor who is treating the little-understood condition of battle fatigue. Always seeking news of her brother, her journey is ultimately one of self-discovery.

Both a compelling coming-of-age tale and a moving wartime narrative told with verve and emotion, The Secret of Raven Point is Jennifer Vanderbes at her best.

When I began The Secret of Raven Point my first impression was that this is a novel of devotion.  How far would you go for someone you love?  It sounds a little sappy, like a Nicholas Sparks novel, the difference is that Juliet has grit.  That trait is what carries The Secret of Raven Point.  While I knew Juliet’s mission of finding her brother Tuck was a fool’s errand her determination and courage is what persevered

Even though it was fiction The Secret of Raven Point showed an interesting view-finder that can go overlooked, that of an army nurse.  Jennifer Vanderbes, drew an elaborate picture of an army hospital.  There were moments when I wish she hadn’t painted such a vivid image as it was an unimaginable sight.  Although, one cannot simply turn their head aside and wait for it to pass, I tackled it head on riveted by each character’s role.

One patient Christopher Barnaby, may hold the answers to Juliet’s burning question which is slowly revealed through the rise and fall of his battle fatigue.  As this held a key point of the novel one could longingly anticipate the return to this story but there was so much swirling around that I didn’t feel the need to speed through to Barnaby’s next confession, instead it became the cream inside a Hostess cupcake.

On two separate occasions Jennifer Vanderbes incorporates a chance at romance.  Thank goodness these were short-lived, I thought that if advances were included it could be likened to an action film with the directors adding a little romance to draw female viewers.  They did add a softening to a hard-edged book, but I’m glad they sputtered out.

The recovery of her brother Tuck soon became a novelty idea, a lost cause that was clung to.  Despite no good deed going unpunished, this misguided hope is what held the novel together.  My one complaint was the ending, while concluding on a cliffhanger I almost felt that the author didn’t know how to end it and just stopped mid sentence.  The epilogue ties everything together but if not for that I would have been left with something missing, an incomplete story.  Overall, The Secret of Raven Point is worth the read and a different look at WWII.


2 responses to “Book Review: The Secret of Raven Point

  1. I didn't love this book, but there was much that I did like about it: the Italian WW2 setting, the field hospitals, the psychiatry, and the fact that the driving relationship in this book was of siblings, not of lovers. So many historical novels devolve into romances and I was glad that this one resisted that temptation.

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