Book 1: Poppy
WW1 has broken out and Poppy is a parlourmaid in the de Vere household. She is young, beautiful and clever but family circumstances have meant that she cannot carry on her studies. As the war carries on, the world Poppy lives in begins to change and opportunities come Poppy’s way. She is able to train as a volunteer nurse (VAD) and to hope that there is a future for the love she shares with Freddie, the younger son of the de Vere’s.
This is a gentle book, following Poppy’s fortunes at she starts her VAD training. Through her eyes we experience WW1 on the home front: the white feathers, the injuries, the broken families, the breaking down of class structure, women’s emancipation and the fear and bravery that war produces. However, whilst Poppy is somewhat innocent and unrealistic in her hopes, the story itself is not, and the description of life during this period is beautiful and detailed. The book ends on a cliffhanger.
DO NOT READ ON IF YOU DONT WANT THE CLIFFHANGER SPOILT
Book 2: Poppy in the Field
Reeling from the news that Freddie de Vere is marrying someone else, Poppy asks to transfer and carry on her work as a VAD (voluntary aid detachment) in France. Poppy struggles with an unpleasant Sister who seems determined to make her life a misery but the work and the danger soon distract her from her broken heart. At first she sufferers from loneliness and homesickness but then she meets a couple of American nurses and encounters some familiar faces from her time at Netley and life start improving.
Poppy’s experiences in France introduce the reader to the extent of the difficult working conditions for doctors and nursing staff, the unhelpful snobbery between qualified nurses and VAD’s and the sometimes archaic rules imposed on young working women. It also opens the readers eyes to the devastating physical and mental injuries suffered by soldiers at the Front and the effect of these injuries on the men and their families. The story itself is an easy read and is an excellent and enjoyable way to learn about life during WW1 – both with regards to class difference and the role of women. It also provides an understanding of the widespread and different types of suffering the war produced and the role of people from countries outside of the UK. At the end of the book there is a section with some notes about the Great War which enable the reader to learn a little bit more about some of the events referred to in the book.