The Secret of Raven Point
Author: Jennifer Vanderbes
Publisher: Scribner (2014)
Genre: Historical Novel
Hardcover Edition: 304 pages
Source: Library copy
In 1943 a girl only seventeen years old uses her intellect to become a nurse in order to follow her beloved brother, who has been reported missing, into war. The war in Italy is both beautiful and horrifying, and the story set there is heartbreaking and unforgettable.
This is the first novel I’ve read, at least in recent years, that addresses the mental suffering of soldiers in World War II and the work of medical teams to treat them. Jennifer Vanderbes handles the subject with skill. Her writing reminds me of the novels by Pat Barker about those on the front lines during World War I and the mental trauma suffered by so many who fought in the trenches then. Both authors make the issue real and painful. In the author’s note, Jennifer Vanderbes tells readers that approximately fifty thousand American soldiers deserted during World War II, a statistic I found surprising. Her research is admirable. And further, she uses it to advantage to create characters and tell the story. This novel never reads like a history report.
Here is a writer who builds a house of history so real that the bones, the blood, the emotion, the horror and the love are brick and mortar. She transforms the past into a story of people the reader wants to stay with until the last words have been read several times. Her ideas are powerful and her sentences are some of the most beautiful ever written.
This thrilling and heartbreaking book is with certainty one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. Ms. Vanderbes’ descriptions are powerful. She writes her characters and their situations with compassion and understanding.
The combination of mystery, history, and romance found on these pages is most compelling. Ms. Vanderbes has a new fan, and I would guess I am only one of many. Follow her on Facebook and read about her books at www.goodreads.com. Here is the link to her website www.jennifervanderbes.com.