A Brave New World
An Ocean Apart by Sarah Lee is a marvellous historical novel that I just could not put down.
The novel is set in 1954 as we follow three young women from the Caribbean to England to train as nurses in the fairly new NHS. We witness the bravery needed to cross the ocean.
Nursing is a profession requiring high standards. We follow the new recruits through exams and ward rotations. Everyone has different gifts – some are good with children or in maternity or on the psych ward. Whichever their area of expertise, we witness the dedication, hard work and care needed.
Britain at the time was emerging into a new world. The Windrush generation were here. They were greeted with warmth and love on the whole but there were pockets of ugly racism and ignorance. The girls all have varying personalities and support each other. The reader witnesses, with horror, the lengths some will go to with their prejudice.
World War II was not that far removed. Some returning soldiers still suffered with shell shock. Treatment was beginning to emerge.
All the characters were well drawn, likable and realistic. The reader admires the bravery and guts needed to start a new life in Britain.
The future awaits for the three women. We see the opportunities beginning to open up.
We read with horror the stigmatism that is attached to unmarried mothers – attitudes are harsh, and the modern reader finds this hard to understand. All new life should be celebrated and all new mums should be helped.
I really enjoyed An Ocean Apart. I think it would make a fabulous Netflix series. I really want to know what happened next so I am hoping there will be more books following the characters.
I received a free copy from Net Galley. A favourable review was not required. All opinions are my own.