All seems tranquil as newly qualified Health Visitor Sarah motors into a small Kentish hilltop village in her new green mini. She’s barely out of the car when she’s called to assist the midwife with a bride who’s gone into labour in the middle of her own wedding reception. And so her adventures begin…
As a health visitor Nurse Sarah is as green as grass but she puts her best foot into wellies and braves the mad dogs, killer ganders and muddy tracks of the farming community. Despite set-backs young Sarah is determined to help the mums she meets, from struggling young mothers in unmodernised farmhouses, to doyennes of the county dinner party set who slave over stuffed olive hors-d’oeuvres.
Village life in 1970s isn’t always quite the Good Life Sarah’s been expecting; her attempts at self-sufficiency and cider making lead to drunk badgers and spirited house parties – but will it be the clergyman, the vet or the young doctor that win Sarah’s heart. During her first year in Kent, Nurse Sarah Hill get stuck in – reuniting families and helping mums in the midst of community full of ancient feuds, funny little ways and just a bit of magic.
Our Country Nurse is quite different from the genre of books I normally choose to read, but I’m always happy to broaden my horizons and after reading so many crime/thriller books recently I was ready for a change. As they say ‘a change is as good as a rest’ and Our Country Nurse was certainly a welcome break and perfect for a lighter summer read.
The story follows the true experiences of health visitor Sarah Beeson in 1975 as she moves from London to Totley village in Kent. Our Country Nurse is the follow up book to The New Arrival, however, it works well as a standalone. With a new setting and, therefore, new characters you do not feel as though you are missing any threads of the story.
I really liked the characters within the book. Sarah is a fairly young health visitor and her compassion for the job shines through. She is the kind of health visitor you would love to have visiting you and your child – non-judgemental, warm, full of appropriate and good advice, and caring. I also enjoyed the mix of periphery characters; from the glamorous Hermione to the somewhat sour Mrs Jefferies.
While the move from London to a quieter village is a big change for Sarah, and would appear on the surface to be, perhaps, an easier option. However, she meets a whole mix of characters in the families she works with who each face their own issues and difficulties. As an ex social worker who used to work alongside health visitors, it was particularly interesting to me to see how things in relation to child protection procedures have changed. I loved the way in which Sarah was able to assist her families in a timely manner around issues such as housing, without being as strangled by the current procedures I suspect current day health visitors are affected by. The setting and the time period gave me a real sense of the community within the village which appears to be, sadly, lacking in today’s cities and this made Our Country Nurse a really enjoyable read. Not everything is rosy though, as Sarah discovers, and difficulties within families alongside attitudes of the time ensure that Sarah is kept busy and challenged. Being transported back to the seventies also brought back fond memories (and less fond memories when it came to the state of some of the housing Sarah’s families reside in). Beeson has portrayed the era really well.
Our Country Nurse is a warm and enjoyable read with Beeson mixing heart-warming stories with the more moving stories in a way that works really well. Those who enjoy Call the Midwife I have no doubts will enjoy this book.
Published on 25 August 2016 by Harper Element.
A huge thank you to Sarah and Amy Beeson for my copy in exchange for my unbiased and honest review.
#AroundTheUKIn144Books book 9. County: Kent