Synopsis

An intimate portrait of coming of age in a dangerous time and an epic tale of a nation divided.

Women can be heroes. When twenty-year-old nursing student Frances “Frankie” McGrath hears these words, it is a revelation. Raised in the sun-drenched, idyllic world of Southern California and sheltered by her conservative parents, she has always prided herself on doing the right thing. But in 1965, the world is changing, and she suddenly dares to imagine a different future for herself. When her brother ships out to serve in Vietnam, she joins the Army Nurse Corps and follows his path.

As green and inexperienced as the men sent to Vietnam to fight, Frankie is over- whelmed by the chaos and destruction of war. Each day is a gamble of life and death, hope and betrayal; friendships run deep and can be shattered in an instant. In war, she meets—and becomes one of—the lucky, the brave, the broken, and the lost.

But war is just the beginning for Frankie and her veteran friends. The real battle lies in coming home to a changed and divided America, to angry protesters, and to a country that wants to forget Vietnam.

The Women is the story of one woman gone to war, but it shines a light on all women who put themselves in harm’s way and whose sacrifice and commitment to their country has too often been forgotten. A novel about deep friendships and bold patriotism, The Women is a richly drawn story with a memorable heroine whose idealism and courage under fire will come to define an era.

Audiobook Review

6 stars

To say I was apprehensive to read The Women would be an understatement.

My first book by Kristin Hannah was The Nightingale and I absolutely loved it! Then I read Firefly Lane and that book destroyed me. Fourth Wind was too much for me. Too gloomy, hopeless and dark. I never finished the book.

And when, after having read about 30% of The Women and loving it so far I learned that there would be addiction, one of my biggest triggers because of friends having been addicted, I feared the worst.

But I read Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s story with passion.

That book is divided into several “parts”.

The first is about Frankie being shipped in Vietnam as a naïve girl. She will be in for a rude awakening and I think that Kristin Hannah did an amazing job describing nurses working on the field, till they couldn’t stand on their feet, with ears ringing for hours after an attack.

That part was intense, angsty but also with moments of joy thanks to the sisterhood Frankie found with Ethel and Barb. There was romance too.

The second part was Frankie coming back home.

And something I never realized about Vietnam war, probably because we don’t talk about it a lot in our European schoolbooks, was that Americans were ashamed of that war.

And when Frankie was back, after having saved lives and risked her own life, people would spit on her! Call her a baby killer! Her own parents were ashamed and she couldn’t talk about it. Even worse, people didn’t believe women went to Vietnam.

Can you imagine the devastation of coming back from a brutal war and being shamed for what you did. No one to listen to your trauma?

Well it went as well as you can imagine. The lack of support for veterans was astounding,  even more for women whom no one believed went to war and if they did, they didn’t see the women as “true” veterans as they never “saw” combat.

That “after the war” was devastating.

At twenty-five, Frankie moved with the kind of caution that came with age; she was constantly on guard, aware that something bad could happen at any moment. She trusted neither the ground beneath her feet nor the sky above her head. Since coming home from war, she had learned how fragile she was, how easily upended her emotions could be.”

And so, after hitting rock bottom thanks to PTSD, the third part will all be about healing.

I won’t go into specifics but I want to say three things:

-First, the most important, Franke is a hell of a girl! She is real, she has flaws and she has courage. She had an incredible growth and I love Frankie.

-Second: I want to punch Ryan so bad!

-Third: the sisterhood is amazing. If you have watched Band of Brothers well, you could call that book Band of Sisters.

Thank God for girlfriends. In this crazy, chaotic, divided world that was run by men, you could count on the women.”

It was harsh, hard, real. I cried so many times at the unfairness of it all. But it was also hopeful.

My only complaint: I think Frankie deserved an epilogue. For once Mrs Hannah…

Thanks for reading.

Sophie

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10 Comments

  1. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know much about the Vietnam War prior to reading this book. It was an eye-opener to me how horrifying it was, but more than that, how vets were treated when they returned. WTH??