Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Nightingale Girls - Donna Douglas - Author Guest Post

It is my pleasure today to welcome author Donna Douglas to my blog! Donna is writing about the background to her new novel The Nightingale Girls, and how she came to write it. 

Guest post by Donna Douglas 

I never set out to write an historical novel. My previous eight books, written under the name of Donna Hay, have all been chick-lit type tales, firmly based in this century.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t love the idea of writing about the past. I just didn’t think a) anyone would ever ask me to do it, and b) I would be able to handle all that research.

But then my publisher suggested I might like to write a series of novels set in an East End hospital in the 1930s. The hospital would be the central character, with other characters’ stories weaving in and out as the series progressed.

How could I turn up an opportunity like that? Straight away, I set about doing some research to find out if there might be enough material there. I read nursing biographies, researched nursing archives and interviewed former nurses about their experiences. And I soon realised I had enough stories for a dozen books!

What a life nurses led back in the 1930s. A girl committing to nursing training could expect to live for three years in a nurses’ home, under the watchful eye of the Home Sister. Their life was strict and hard. As well as working 14 hour shifts on the ward, any time off would be spent attending lectures or catching up on their studies. They were not allowed visitors in the nurses’ home, had to be in bed by ten, and speaking to men was strictly forbidden. During my research, I discovered the story of one poor unfortunate student who, as punishment for flirting with a medical student, was forced by the sister to take an ice cold bath at 6am!

But in spite of this, somehow the girls found time to have fun. They went dancing, colluded with each other to sneak back after lights out (although a lady I spoke to told me of the time she’d climbed back in through an open window only to find herself in the Home Sister’s bathroom!)  and generally had a high old time. I was told the pictures was a favourite place for a night out, mainly because it gave the nurses a much-needed opportunity to sit down!

They also formed friendships that would last them a lifetime. And it’s that unlikely bond between my three students, working class Dora, bored debutante Millie and hard-working Helen, that forms the basis of my novel, The Nightingale Girls. Together, they find friendship and the strength to stand up to their demons and the formidable ward sisters!

I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoy researching and writing it! 

The Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas. 
Published August 2012 by Arrow

Follow Donna on Twitter - @donnahay1


  1. I'm a little way into The Nightingale Girls and I like it very much. I'm reminded of the Sue Barton books I loved years ago, and I'm pleased there's going to be a series as I can see a lot of potential in the years ahead.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment. Great to hear you like it. I'm looking forward to starting it very soon.


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