In the Shadow of the Lamp (ARC) by Susanne Dunlap
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Pub. Date: April 12th, 2011
Age Level: 13+
Synopsis via Goodreads
It's 1854 and sixteen-year-old Molly would give anything to change her circumstances as a lowly servant in a posh London house. So when she hears of an opportunity to join the nurses who will be traveling with Florence Nightingale to the Crimea, she jumps at the chance. The work is grueling, the hospital conditions deplorable, and Miss Nightingale a demanding teacher. Before long, the plight of British soldiers becomes more than just a mission of mercy as Molly finds that she's falling in love with both a dashing young doctor and a soldier who has joined the army to be near her. But with the battle raging ever nearer, can Molly keep the two men she cares for from harm? A love story to savor, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes imagining of the woman who became known as "the lady with the lamp."
Beautiful and sometimes brutal, heart-warming and often heart-breaking, In the Shadow of the Lamp is a vividly painted work of historical fiction, deeply infused with raw emotion.
Molly was a subtly strong, determined, and endearing heroine that I found my self able to care for very easily. I connected with her instantly and thought she was very realistic and genuine. Her shame over being cast out, despite the reason not being of her own accord, and her urge to make something of herself made her very relatable, bridging the time gap between now and then. Some things just never change, human emotions being one of them. Another aspect of her character that I thought was impeccably done was her acknowledged confusion over her feelings for Will and Dr. Maclean; who was it she loved and was what she felt even love at all? Only seventeen, never having been in love before, I was glad to see her doubt and uncertainty as it made her more believable versus proclaiming her undying love for either or both of them. It wasn't difficult to see why she was torn between the two as well. Will, her devoted friend, risked practically everything for her, helping her whenever she needed it, and, eventually, enlisting in the army so he could be closer to her. He was sweet, caring, loyal, and he made Molly feel safe. Then there is Dr. Maclean who's charming, swoon-worthy, but also off-limits, both knowing they could be sent away and stripped of there positions should they become involved. Like Molly, I found myself deeply caring for each of these men, not wanting to see either one hurt.
Now, I would like discuss the character of Florence Nightingale, or Miss Nightingale, as referred to in the story. Miss Nightingale was a very empowered woman who knew what she wanted, how she wanted it done, and how to achieve both. She's young, but stern, a woman who means business and who's directions should not be taken lightly; a leader in a world where women were only permitted to be followers. Though not always the most open minded, Miss Nightingale was not without compassion and understanding, which shined through at the most opportune times. All of these things pulled together to form a complex and expert imagining of the historically renowned woman who paved the way for modern nursing techniques. A couple of other well-crafted supporting characters I feel I can't go without mentioning are Emma, Molly's troublesome friend, and Mrs. Drake, the often outspoken nurse who was like a grandmother to Molly.
In the Shadow of the Lamp was the perfect, harmonious entwinement and balance of historical fact and fiction. It is impossible for us to know what all could have happened during these times and it is the author's roll to provide us with various scenarios and captivating possibilities. Dunlap did just that very thing with her heroine, Molly, giving us a glimpse of what Florence Nightingale was really like through the eyes of a servant girl turned nurse. Dunlap's research was evident and while she did take some liberties, something I felt was necessary, she stuck very close to the facts concerning the actual people and events. Another thing I loved about In the Shadow of the Lamp was that while there was some romance, Dunlap did not try to romanticize Molly's job or the actuality of war and it's many horrors. The plot wasn't overly heavy though and there was just the right amount of action, adventure, and romance weaved in, making this book utterly compelling.
I absolutely loved Dunlap's writing style; her lyrical prose was keenly wrought with emotion and expertly depicted the scene and situations laid before me. Her attention to detail was thorough and she more than knew how to to grab and pull at my heartstrings. The pacing was spot-on and the first-person, past tense narrative the most appropriate choice, in my opinion. The dialogue was also something that was impressively done, matching each characters' station in life, be it servant or upper class.
The ending, for lack of a better word, and I no I keep using it, was pleasantly bittersweet. Do you ever read a book and think, "A happy ending would really ruin this."? This is one of those books and while I believe Molly to have been content and, overall, happy at the very end, it wasn't without having to face pain, heartbreak, and death first. Sometimes, when we find it too difficult to make a decision, fate makes it for us and not always to the most wished for outcome; I feel Dunlap did an excellent job portraying this. This may sound a bit crazy but considering the time period and war setting of this book, I was going to be very disappointed if at least one person didn't die. This is not because I wanted certain people to die but because I felt it wouldn't have been staying true to the story if no one did. Needless to say, Dunlap did not disappoint in this area, in fact, she exceeded my expectations.
In the Shadow of the Lamp is a rich, engrossing, and poignant addition to the historical-fiction genre and easily my favorite of all the ones I've read thus far. Everything was so brilliantly executed and seamlessly pulled together. I find I am now left with a new found appreciation and admiration for Florence Nightingale, the woman famously known as 'the lady with the lamp'. If you are a fan of historical fiction, do not hesitate to pre-order this marvelous story as I very highly recommend it. This is one I can see myself reading time and time again and I can't wait to delve into more of Susanne Dunlap's stories.
Cover: A+ (Love, love, love it!)
Don't wait til April 12th to buy this and risk forgetting. Pre-order it now!
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011
In the Shadow of the Lamp (ARC) by Susanne Dunlap
Posted by ~The Book Pixie at 2/16/2011 08:20:00 AM