As a fan of historical fiction, Somewhere in France is a novel that shares the important contribution of women during World War I. Despite the limitations that they experienced in the early 1900s, women were empowered to risk their lives by driving ambulances near the front, freeing up men to continue the fight. This novel tells the tale of Lady Elizabeth (Lilly), a young woman struggling against the restrictions of her parents (who limited her education and expected focus on marriage and children) who strived to help in the war effort.
Lilly corresponds with both her beloved brother, Edward, (at the front) and his best friend, Robbie (a surgeon near the front) during the war. Lilly corresponds with Robbie and secretly learns to drive. When her mother discovers the letters and driving, she is furious and Lilly leaves home in reaction to her mother’s punishment. An opportunity arises to drive ambulances at the front and Lilly enthusiastically takes the job.
Lilly orchestrates her assignment at the same base as Robbie and they work in parallel, caring for wounded and dying soldiers. Lilly experiences a life far removed from her coddled life as a Lady- seeing the horrible results of life in the trenches and in no man’s land. Her own life is at risk since the bombing is not far from the hospital tents.
As much as the novel tells the horrible truth about The Great War, it tells a tale of love that grows during adversity and trauma. It is the first novel written by the Canadian author Jennifer Robson and it was difficult to put down until the end. Many historical novels that I have read focus on WWII and it was helpful to learn about the bravery and sacrifice of women role during WWI. I am looking forward to reading the sequel, After the War which was recently published.
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