When the World Stood Still - Kate Eastham

Goodreads Book Blurb:

The nurses were putting in twelve-hour shifts now, day and night. Emily felt broken inside, dried out, not even capable of tears. They were short-staffed after a softly spoken Irish nurse had died from the unstoppable disease and two more had fallen ill. And more patients were coming in every hour, though the hospital beds were already full…

Wartime London. Twenty-year-old Emily Burdon has been training as a nurse, learning on the job as she tends to patients from the crowded poorhouses that ring the hospital as well as wounded soldiers. She pours her heart into her nursing while she waits for happier times – peace in Europe and the return of her childhood sweetheart Lewis from battle.

But when the deadly Spanish Flu arrives in London on the heels of the war, Emily’s faith and courage are put to the test. All around her men and women in the prime of their lives are wasting away, and until a cure is found there is nothing for Emily and her colleagues to do.

But then Lewis admits to a devastating betrayal, just as a new doctor is transferred to head up Emily’s ward. From the distant land of Prince Edward Island in Canada, Dr James Cantor is the first of a generations-old farming family to have left the island, and wartime London feels a long way away from the rugged beauty of his homeland. But despite their differences, he and Emily find common ground in their passion for helping patients. But with life forever changed around her and Lewis’ future hanging by a thread, can Emily survive the most terrible epidemic in the history with her life – and heart – intact?

Genres:

My Review:

***Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

enjoyable/easy to read:
3/5

I picked When the World Stood Still up, planning to read a couple chapters before bed. Over two hours later I finished it, incredibly happy despite the very little sleep I was going to get before work this morning. I certainly was not expecting how quickly I would be absorbed into this story and I would have gladly forfeited more sleep to follow Emily for longer.

Emily is an incredibly likable character. She’s young and relatively carefree for someone working as a nurse during WWI while her fiancé is fighting. Persistent and hardworking, she is incredibly intelligent and kind. Emily’s family is supportive and she’s developed friendships with her fellow nurses. Suddenly, with the end of the war seemingly closer every day, the influx of flu patients rises, their symptoms more severe, and more and more people are dying at what feels like an impossible rate.

These days, any pandemic stories are going to hit differently. I loved that while the subject matter was dark, the stakes were high, and the losses were real and painful, the narrative kept moving. There was no time to sit and wallow, Emily had to keep working so we had to keep moving. So much happened in just over 200 pages it seems incredible looking back. I felt connected to the characters and they by no means felt shallow, but there were a few plot points tidied up a little too quickly and definitely too easily to be entirely believable. It also feels there were a few paths hinted at but not fully explored. For example, Alma’s seemingly fluctuating feelings towards Emily were never quite explained. For someone who had a POV chapter early on and looked to be a central character, Alma felt a little brushed off and forgotten somewhere in there. And I would have loved more James. He had the potential to be great, there just wasn’t enough. Above everyone else, I think Lewis deserved more time and information. Whether through more interactions with the nurses or Emily’s family, or even more POV chapters, I needed more justification for his actions and the choices he made both throughout the war and after.

All in all, a captivating read with a beautiful story. Maybe slightly underdeveloped, a little too fast-paced, but well worth a read.

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