Title: The Fire by Night
Author: Teresa Messineo
Genre: Adult, Historical, WWII
Imprint: William Morrow
Date published: January 17, 2017
Page Count: 320
Source: Blog Tour Host
A physical copy of the book was kindly provided by the blog tour host, in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale.
In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.
Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded bycruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.
When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.
First off, I would just like to say a big thank you to TLC Blog Tours for being the first tour host to contact me about joining a book blog tour! I am very honoured and grateful! And now, on to the review.
This being Teresa Messineo’s debut novel, I have obviously never read any other book by her, and if she has posted any short fiction or poetry, I have also not read that either. I therefore plunged into The Fire by Night without any expectations. I knew that the book was about WWII, and more specifically about two women’s experiences in WWII, and I knew that Messineo had spent seven years researching for this book (due to the “about the author” section provided by the tour host).
Going into a book without any expectations (due to your having read a certain author before, or due to having read about that particular book from someone else) is a rare thing (for me at least), and I have learned to appreciate it as a reviewer because there are no outside influences threatening to subconsciously alter my opinion. And with The Fire by Night, I came to realize and appreciate this once more.
I generally avoid historical books containing war, generally due to the fact that Pearl Harbor, the 2001 film, traumatized me for life, and also due to the fact that I am a crybaby. But there was something in the blurb for The Fire by Night which just caught my attention. The two main characters stood out to me simply from reading about them in the book summary, and I wanted to know more about them and their world. And learn more about them and the second World War I did.
Messineo writes in an engaging manner, and her descriptions are clear and vibrant. For most of the book, I found myself vividly imagining the scenes playing out in the novel, much like one would see a film playing on a screen. There were also many graphic descriptions, which I could picture just as clearly, and which made this piece of fiction feel two real-life accounts, from two real women.
I also really liked that although the book was written in the third person, the voices of the two main characters, Jo and Kay, are very distinct. They very both very different characters, experiencing the war in their own unique (and horrible) ways. The stream-of-consciousness feel of the book adds to the experience, rather than confusing readers (like other stream-of-consciousness books which I have read in the past). Jo and Kay, as well as other characters were well-developed and fleshed out. One could not only easily picture their physical attributes, but also feel their personalities almost springing off the page.
The story was well-paced and easy to follow, with clear and consistent dates always provided. And there was also enough information provided, and concealed, to keep me interested and wanting to learn more throughout.
Another aspect of this book which I believe I should mention is the matter of nationality and race. Due to being a book set during the second World War, there was some great tension between many countries in the world. The manner in which Jo and Kay think toward other nationalities and races should not be considered to be the opinions of the author. It is my opinion that Messineo believably portrayed the opinions of two women who encountered certain nationalities and races during wartime. That being said, this was the only aspect which I did not enjoy about this book. The beliefs and opinions of Jo and Kay made the story feel all the more credible, but it is my own opinion that we need more books about unity and understanding, rather than misunderstanding and conflict.
As a whole, I found this book to have been very well-crafted as a wartime story from the perspective of two American war nurses. The novel was well-written, skilfully descriptive, gripping, and a shocking reminder of the cruelties as well as good deeds of which humanity is capable.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Teresa Messineo spent seven years researching the history behind The Fire by Night, her first novel. She is a graduate of DeSales University, and her varied interests include homeschooling her four children, volunteering with the underprivileged, medicine, swing dancing, and competitive athletics. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Connect with Teresa on Facebook.
THANK YOU FOR READING MY REVIEW! HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? WHAT DID YOU THINK? AND IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT YET, DO YOU WANT TO, OR NOT? HOW COME? LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!