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The Roses of No Man's Land

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  317 ratings  ·  33 reviews
"On the face of it," writes Lyn Macdonald, "no one could have been less equipped for the job than these gently nurtured girls who walked straight out of Edwardian drawing rooms into the manifest horrors of the First World War..." Yet the volunteer nurses rose magnificently to the occasion. In leaking tents and drafty huts they fought another war, a war against agony and de ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 7th 1993 by Penguin UK (first published October 6th 1980)
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4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  317 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Apr 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: Jeslyn Rumbold
Shelves: world-war-i, history, war
Renowned World War I historian Lyn Macdonald uses countless interviews to create an almost mesmerizing chronicle of the other army — the volunteer nurses. "On the face of it," she introduces, "no one could have been less equipped for the job than these gently nurtured girls who walked straight out of Edwardian drawing rooms into the manifest horrors of the First World War." Tales of humor, despair, and unequalled courage as these women watched their contemporaries — and their world — die in the ...more
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Most people's abiding image of the First World War VADs probably stems from Vera Brittain and her Testament of Youth. But there were many more Vera Brittains out there serving almost on the front lines of the war, thousands upon thousands of young, gently-bred girls who went from Edwardian drawing rooms and débutante balls and finishing schools, straight into the hell of the Western Front, volunteers all of them.

These girls more than rose (forgive the pun!) to the challenge, serving as ambulance
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, 2015, ww1
Very readable history book, consisting of the first person account of participants, either recorded in diaries and letters at the time, or by interview in the period leading up to publication in 1980.

It is clear from the start what its objective is: to tell the story of medics - ranging from skilled doctors to amateur VADs - members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment - and orderlies, working in casualty clearing stations, on ambulances, and hospitals near the Western Front and in Britain. A few exc
It is hard to believe that this year, 2014, sees the 100 year anniversary of World War I. What is tragic is also the fact that there are now no more living veterans from that war; the last dying in 2012 at the age of 110. It is this last point that makes books like this an invaluable addition to any home bookshelf and library, as it pulls on interviews with those who were there. However, this is not the usual book on the Great War, as it does not just tell the tale of those who fought in the tra ...more
Marguerite Kaye
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was not an easy read. There were times when I was in floods of tears, and most of the time I was just totally awed by the heroism of the women described. That they themselves were so very matter-of-fact, that they took the long hours (as in 20, 22 hour shifts), the horrors they dealt with, the appalling conditions (many of them lived in bell tents) and the strain, the heavy responsibilities hey were given, for granted, made me feel rather small.

Told through letters and diaries, this book g
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a brilliant work of research turned into a compelling account of civilians turned soldiers, turned nurses, turned ambulance drivers on the front lines during WWI.
The author plumbed the depths of letters and diaries cherished by families, in museums, and libraries for her accounts of battle, hospitals, bravery and medical advances in what was supposed to be the war to end all wars. You get such an accurate picture of the what war was like and what it was like to fight, be injured, give s
Jul 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, war
Reread this 11/13. Macdonald has a felicitous way of combining a graceful, clear narrative with the letters, diaries, and recollections of the participants to tell one coherent, heart-breaking story.

In some ways, the nurses and doctors on the Western Front in WW I had much the worst job, for they shared the shelling, the cold, the mud, the heat, the futility, with the men on the line ... and theirs was always the worst, seeing only the human cost. This is a great book.

Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war
The First World War seen through the eyes of the young women who enlisted as nurses and ambulance drivers, as well as the doctors and the men unfit for military service who volunteered in other capacities. Plenty of horror, heroism and humour, and some fascinating details from the early days of plastic surgery and blood transfusion.

It would have been nice to hear from the non-English-speaking participants as well, but the scope is already vast.
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I found reading this book to be a bit tedious. The author makes very frequent use of letters and diaries that occupy nearly every page and sometimes continues for pages on end. I found this really annoying and to me this makes the narrative seem disjointed in a way. Although this may be a good source for what it was like on the medical end of WWI there are other books that are at least just as good if not better. I really wanted to like this book but I just couldn't. I practically had to force m ...more
James Plummer
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read about a group of people & a society so ill equipped to deal with the horrors of war. In an era where life appeared almost cheap and a war where yards of ground cost hundreds, thousands or more lives there is a quiet dignity and care to do the best they can in the most appealing of situations. Hard hitting, yet humorous a collection of great stories, but occasionally a little hard to follow, a really good read.
Ann Lynch
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. I am very interested in WWI and WWII historical books - both non-fiction and novels. I took quite a long time to read this book because I wanted to absorb all of it and "re-live" the accounts presented by the doctors and nurses who lived it.

I will look into more of Lyn Macdonald's books.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I couldn't put this down once I'd started it. One hundred years ago men were being maimed, mutilated and dying by the hundreds of thousands in WW1. Intellectually I've known this since high school! . . . but a book this packed with first hand accounts from nurses, doctors and volunteers immediately behind the lines makes it REAL. I can't remember the last time I read a history this vivid.
Ginger Monette
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow. THIS was an excellent book. A treasure for anyone interested in the role of the British 'medical machine' on the Western Front.

Macdonald skillfully intersperses the chronology of war with FIRST HAND accounts of (mostly) women who helped nurse the wounded men. There were occasional voices of men, doctors and such, as often their testimony helped further paint the picture or enhance the reader's understanding of the event of the time.

Because the medical technology and organization/efficiency
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent account of the lives of the nurses, VADs (volunteer 'nurses), ambulance drivers and soldiers who went off to war in 1914 singing and cheering and assuming it would all 'be over by Christmas'. The book is made up mainly of the diaries of these people, with well-researched passages to fill in the history. For anyone who's interested in WW1, there's nothing new or shocking in the pages of the book; however, the first-hand accounts bring it all to life and make it very real. Actually, t ...more
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Courage comes in any different forms. Nearly 100 years ago young men across the world fought in the most bloody conflict the world had ever seen. The carnage was on a scale previously unimaginable. Men fought, men died and some were injured and maimed almost beyond description. And often within range of enemy guns (and certainly their bombs) were groups of women, some with no or minimal nursing previous nurnsing who served their countries through the utmost privations, tending to the wounded and ...more
Kathleen Hulser
Aug 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
British and American women charge off to the muddy trenches of WWI. Horror story elements abound in the era before antibiotics and medical innovation thrives in extremis. Transfusion was a new art, and great advances in facial reconstruction were made, since surgeons got so much practice. Falling on the borders of the Victorian and the modern era, the British volunteers efforts were very strictly supervised -- no dancing, no dating patients, no makeup, as the head Sister watching for unseemly be ...more
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
The real strength of this book is the sheer number of interviews with WWI doctors, nurses, soldiers, and others, who tell us in their own words what things were like in Europe during the Great War. Macdonald does a great job weaving them together. Most of the interviews and stories told came from British citizens (and, to a lesser extent, the US, Canada, and France), and focused on the Western Front. I only wish the scope had been expanded further, and included perspectives from other theaters o ...more
Mary Simonsen
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Author, Lyn MacDonald, has collected the stories of the British Volunteer Aid Detachments who served as nurse's aides in World War I. It's all here: grueling training, long hours, strict matrons, the horrors of the battlefield, and their devotion to the wounded men under their care. These dedicated women labored in a world before antibiotics where a simple cut could turn gangrenous in the manure-laden fields of Flanders and France. They were often the last person a solider saw before dying, and ...more
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
I kept looking for a political, historical, economic analysis and argument, in vain. There is really no argument other than the idea that the stories of the women who supported the war effort as nurses is worth telling, and the progress of the war can be told through their experiences. Got it. Then I kept reading for hundreds of pages, knowing that the stories wouldn't really add up to anything more. Two stars reflects the ambitions and accomplishments of the book, and of my own engagement.
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
As much a history of WWI as the story of the nurses of that war, this book is awesome. The War to End All Wars was not covered in my school - most of what I knew about this conflict was what I picked up from fictional sources. If you like Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford series, or Jacqueline Winspeare's Maisie Dobbs, this will fill in a lot of details. Highly recommended.
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww1, collected-tales
A wonderful study of the experiences of the VADs (Volunteer Aid Detachments, aka Very Able Darlings, aka Victims Always Die), young Englishwomen gently raised in good homes who volunteered to help tend the wounded of WWI. Includes interviews with surviving VADs and a great deal of deep research. Well written and generally fascinating.
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps ranks in my Top Three of all time...I don't think I've ever whined about being single, or the lack of datable men in my life ever since. Great book to remind me of how very fortunate I am, and how remarkable these women were.
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed the mix of first hand accounts and detail of the war. Some could feel it is a little repetitive but for me each individual experience helped to drive home the strength of the human spirit in such desperate times.
Gabriele Wills
Mar 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, ww1
Lyn Macdonald 's extensive research and engaging writing make history accessible. There is nothing as compelling as hearing people's stories through their own words, and this book has plenty of first-hand accounts of the medical scene in WW1. I relied heavily on it for my own research.
Michael Dolan
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read The Roses of No Man's Land just before Christmas. Good introduction to the stories of the women and men who worked in the hospitals in France and the UK during WW1. I didn't know that men could be VADs for one thing.
Jenny L
Jul 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-books
It is amazing to read how people were generally so positive, upbeat and accepting back in the early 1900's. Ordinary people having to do extraordinary things. For years. Then once it was finally over, trying to resume normal, everyday life and put the loss and heartbreak to one side.
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Serious and awesome to read. In the truest sense.
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
moving and heartbreaking.
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
an excellent read focussing on the stories of nurses, medical orderlies and the wounded of the First World War
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Over the past twenty years Lyn Macdonald has established a popular reputation as an author and historian of the First World War. Her books are They Called It Passchendaele, an account of the Passchendaele campaign in 1917; The Roses of No Man's Land,, a chronicle of the war from the neglected viewpoint of the casualties and the medical teams who struggled to save them; ,Somme, a history of the leg ...more
“If the ghost that haunts the towns of Ypres and Arras and Albert is the staturory British Tommy, slogging with rifle and pack through its ruined streets to this well-documented destiny ‘up the line’, then the ghost of Boulogne and Etaples and Rouen ought to be a girl. She’s called Elsie or Gladys or Dorothy, her ankles are swollen, her feet are aching, her hands reddened and rough. She has little money, no vote, and has almost forgotten what it feels like to be really warm. She sleeps in a tent. Unless she has told a diplomatic lie about her age, she is twenty-three. She is the daughter of a clergyman, a lawyer or a prosperous businessman, and has been privately educated and groomed to be a ‘lady’. She wears the unbecoming outdoor uniform of a VAD or an army nurse. She is on active service, and as much a part of the war as Tommy Atkins.” 5 likes
“On the face of it, no one could have been less equipped for the job than these gently nurtured girls who walked straight out of Edwardian drawingrooms into the manifold horrors of the First World War.” 3 likes
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