Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Weekend Read: Ambulance Girls

Ambulance Girls (Ambulance Girls #1)
Deborah Burrows
Ebury Press 2017 

This past weekend, I devoured WA author Deborah Burrows's latest book in a couple of sittings.  It was delightful to escape into the version of World War Two London that this talented author had created, and follow alongside the eponymous Ambulance Girl of the title.  Lily Brennan, a young Australian teacher, has being travelling--  working as a governess in Europe for a wealthy family, learning languages-- but when the Blitz begins, she is a member of the Ambulance service and her job is to go out onto the streets and help those trapped or wounded when the bombs fall.  When we first meet Lily, she is crawling through the remains of a bombed out house in order to rescue two children who have been left stranded inside.  We quickly learn that Lily is tenacious and a woman of great moral integrity.  Lily's partner is David Levy, a young Jewish man whose background causes some unrest among his fellow ambulance station workers.  Anti-Semitism is rife, as is an underlying class-based elitism that Lily finds upsetting and outdated.  When David doesn't show up for work one day, Lily thinks for certain that something has happened to him-- and that it was no accident.

This was a quick read, and light-hearted, but unlike many books that may be considered similar, it didn't rely on easy coincidences or deus ex machina to advance its plot.  The mystery at the heart of the novel was extremely well thought-out and Lily Brennan was a great character to follow along with. Her outsider status as an Australian in Britain provided a lens through which to critique the London attitudes of the time, providing a much more balanced view of Londoners during the Blitz than that which has become so stiflingly common.  As for the love story in this book-- well, there had to be one, didn't there!  And when a character is as lovely as Lily, you absolutely want her to get her man.

A fabulous weekend read, four out of five stars.

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