The Fire by Night, Teresa Messineo, author; Kirsten Potter, narrator
This novel explored the experiences of nurses during WWII on the various fronts of the war. It detailed the disrespect often shown to women who were considered inferior to their male counterparts, although they often faced the same danger; it illuminated the effects on them, as well as their patients; it exposed the homophobia that was rampant at that time. It also described the brutality of all the players, the Allied Powers and the Axis Powers, who often carried out unthinkable acts of sadism. Scarred physically and mentally, both the soldiers and the medical personnel, male and female, suffered equally from the effects of the horrors of the war, from the aggressive cruelty of their enemies who neither respected nor upheld the Geneva Conventions. The lucky ones who survived were often assaulted by their memories and the effects of their nightmarish war experiences had lasting effects on their lives, long after the war was over.
Highlighting the loss and the danger, the author described the experiences of two friends, Kay and Jo, who were stationed in different theaters of the war, who dealt with different enemies, all of whom, however, were equally brutal and diabolical in their methods. Dedicated to their profession, even in the face of extreme peril, without supplies, proper medicines or medical supplies, faced with extreme shortages of food, they still stayed and performed their duties to the best of their ability, often only able to offer the comfort of their presence. They demonstrated their great courage and did not abandon their posts, their patients or their hospitals.
The novel described the desperate love stories that developed during the frantic fog of wartime. Regarding the history and the recording of the battles and their aftermath, the story felt authentic, but when it came to the romantic episodes, it often seemed contrived. Also in the same way as the minds of the weakened nurses seemed to wander, so did the story line, occasionally getting a bit confusing as it moved from place to place and time to time, revealing different aspects of both Kay and Jo’s lives and experiences. Occasionally, it trended to the melodramatic.
The narrator performed this heartbreaking story of love and loss, courage and fear, with just the right amount of emotion and expression to hold my interest and to set the stage for each scene appropriately. She accurately portrayed the degradation the women experienced and carefully illuminated their heroism in the face of their fear and the burdens the war and their duty placed upon them, with the tone and emotional expression of her voice.