Tuesday, April 15, 2014

[Review] Poppy (#1) by Mary Hooper

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 08/05/2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher for review
Genre: YA (12+) - Historical

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My Rating: 
Highly entertaining!
My thoughts

I had no idea that this book would have a sequel, but as I was nearing the end I knew there was no way there couldn't have been. May 2015, 'Poppy in the Field'. I know it's going to be an emotional and intense read.

Last week I received a package from Bloomsbury in the mail, containing two books: this was one of them. I hadn't heard anything about it, but 1) I adore good historical fiction; 2) Mary Hooper is quite a well-known staple of YA historical fiction; 3) This book focuses on WWI; 4) The heroine becomes a VAD nurse for the war effort, so I picked it up almost immediately and don't regret the decision one bit.

Poppy Pearson is a young woman working as a parlourmaid for the de Veres. The war rages on. While the older de Vere brother enlists to fight in the war, the younger, Freddie, only joins after being handed an anonymous white feather in the mail (which Poppy's teacher had encouraged her to send). It is also by her teacher's suggestion that she also partake in the war effort by joining the VAD as a nurse. She's good at taking orders and she is no stranger to hard work and long hours. Before Freddie and Poppy part, they share a few moments: a look, a kiss, a touch and squeeze of the hand; and despite their difference in social standing they exchange letters and agree to meet once again. But Mrs de Vere will not allow the two of them to end up together--her son must marry someone of higher class...

Poppy was quite an easy read and definitely recommended for younger readers (12+) who are interested in learning more about what it was like in these times. Written in third person, with simple prose.

The characters were just okay for me. None of them were really that fleshed out or memorable. I like Poppy; she's a hard-working, honest and kind young woman, but she can be a bit frivolous and indecisive. Nonetheless, I liked following her in her progression as a nurse, and found that I could relate to a few of the situations that arose. Obviously, as a nurse myself, I had to draw some comparison between the conditions of the war hospitals back then, and how the hospitals are now. It was highly interesting and I think Hooper did a good job portraying the hospital working environment in England at the time.

Freddie de Vere doesn't have much of a personality at all; all I can really gather is that he's fighting in the war, he's from an extremely well-off family, he's quite a sentimental person, and he loves Poppy. Despite this, I think things will get a lot more interesting in the sequel. Something big happens in the end of Poppy, and it'll be interesting to see how that escalates, how both of them react to the actions of the other. As for the other young man in her life, the doctor at the hospital...

Poppy's VAD friends at her station, Matthews and Jameson, were interchangeable for me. They were the support that Poppy needed to get through the various ups and downs in her life, but I could never tell them apart!

A few of the Tommies (soldiers) and higher-ups were fun to read about. I like that Hooper included some of the injured, gave them names, personalities and back-stories of their own, so that they weren't just something thrown in the background. Instead, Hooper gives them life and brings forth the point that all of the injured and those who died in the war, had lives and voices of their own.

Finally I want to mention Poppy's brother, Billy/William. I think it is important that he was included in this story. While many young men jumped at the chance to gain glory and fight the good fight, many were frightened and were bullied or pressured into enlisting. The experience proves too much for him and he returns home in pretty bad circumstances. I can't wait to find out what happens to him next!

Poppy is the first book I've read that was set in England in 1914-1915 and overall I think that Hooper succeeded in portraying the setting with a level of realism worthy of the historical fiction genre. While I didn't fall in love with any of the characters I am invested in their lives and stories such that I will, without a doubt, be reading on with the sequel, Poppy on the Field! An easy to read account of what VAD nurses may have experienced in war-time England.


First lines: "Poppy sat, bolt upright and uncomfortable, on one of the carved, wooden chairs in the blue drawing room of Airey House in the village of Mayfield. In front of her, looking equally out of place, sat Molly, the other parlourmaid. They were winding wool: Poppy had her arms outstretched with a long loop of wool around each hand, Molly was winding it into a ball, from right to left and back, catching Poppy's eye every now and again and giving her a look. Each time she did this, Poppy would have to glance away quickly or risk giggling."


AUSTRALIA: A&R | Readings | BookWorld

INTERNATIONAL: Fishpond | Book Depository

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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