Review: The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo
Why: I love learning about World War II. There is something about “the greatest generation” of Americans and the military stories from the war that makes me pine for simpler times and a united togetherness in our country. (The world too, but I try to be somewhat realistic!) As you may know from my review of Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand, my father is also a WWII reenactor and history buff. He consumes anything and everything he can get his hands on about the war, and I seem to have inherited this trait on a more fiction-based level!
It was as if he were screaming and crying and speaking out on her behalf, on behalf of them all, on behalf of all those forced into silence and submission.
The Story: The Fire by Night is a story of two front-line nurses, one serving in the Pacific Theater and one serving in the European Theater. The two were trained together in New York before shipping out to their respective stations. The narrative shifts point of view from one to the other as they navigate through their daily challenges. Both women are trapped by internal and external battles that stretch the limits of their strength, courage and survival. Driven by a sense of duty and responsibility, these two depict the often overlooked, yet pivotal role wartime nurses served overseas.
She promised a thousand, senseless, useless things she would never do and could never remember, promised them on her word of honor; she heard without hearing the flotsam of a thousand, unfinished lives, the things they had not said and had not done and now would never say or do.
Opinion: I really enjoyed this book. The advance reviews were glowing and I wholeheartedly agree! Author Teresa Messineo captures an image of what life was like for American nurses in a style that is incredibly personal and yet encompasses the sacrifices of so many. The writing is accessible and manages to provide intricate detail without bogging the reader down with an entire history lesson. My favorite part though, is the expression of inner dialogue that allows us to understand the nurses’ daily struggles. I feel I walked away from this work with a new appreciation and admiration for the women of WWII.
The nurses kept to their shifts like boys playing soldier, like girls playing house, even though by now they would fall down several times on their way to the wards.
Recommendation: This book has a little bit of something for everyone. It is not a gruesome tale of wartime destruction, but does not sugar coat the loss of life and limb on all sides. The novel has romantic elements, but shares the real struggle and vulnerability of love during war. There are deep layers of mental turmoil that faced so many during and after their military service, yet Messineo manages to keep her book from becoming too dark or overwhelming. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the 1940s/WWII era, but especially younger women who can rally around the strength and purpose depicted by these nurses.
And then a woman – a highly trained woman, a woman who could have fixed almost anything but knew that she could not fix this, that no one could fix this – did what no man could do.
Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post!)
- There is a theme of love throughout the novel. Who is the most loving character? Why? How does he or she display this love?
- Which of the patients that Jo works with is your favorite? Why?
- Why do you think the ghost of Gianni is so vivid for Jo?
- Both Kay and Jo have the opportunity to find the families of loved ones and they make different decisions. Did you agree with each woman’s choice? What decision would you have made?
- Imagine you are Jo standing before the ocean near the end of the novel. Do you throw the ring or do you keep it?
- Did the conclusion of the book satisfy you?
Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for my honest review!