Band of Angels
Touchstone, May 18 2010, $16.00
As a child living by the beaches in 1840s in Wales, Catherine Carreg lived a carefree without much parental supervision. She especially enjoyed riding ponies on the beach while competing against her best friend Deio, the son of a cattle driver. However, Catherine also hated living in the small hamlet as the gossip follows everywhere. In fact whisperers forced her father to forbid her spending time with Deio and when her mom died in childbirth, her life turned even more untenable.
The first chance she gets to escape to London she takes; abetted by her buddy. Catherine obtains a position in Florence Nightingale’s home for sick governesses at a time the Crimea War is in the news. She volunteers as a nurse at a time her beloved Deio enlists as a soldier. The horrors of war force both to grow up instantly in order to cope with death and mayhem; neither fully comes to grip with what they witness and must do as duty calls while engulfed by the fog of being at or near the front.
The key to this strong Crimean War drama is the battle scenes and their aftermath are not dumbed down or hidden off page as Julia Gregson depicts the nightmare in vivid blood red and gruesome gray. The horrors that the lead couple witness force both to mature rapidly if they want to emotionally survive even with their love for one another. Readers will appreciate the aptly titled Band of Angels as the spotlight is on the mid nineteenth century conflict through the eyes of two young volunteers; who rather quickly ask themselves the Edwin Starr question on war - what is it good for?