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Spit and Polish

av D. A. Brown

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Visar 5 av 5
Thanks to LibraryThing , author DA Brown, and Somewhat Grumpy Press for this advanced reviewer’s copy!

SPIT AND POLISH is a captivating historical fiction novel that transports readers to Canada in 1946, where aspiring nurse Ruth dreams of escaping her small-town life and making a difference. Accepted into Kingston General Hospital’s nursing school, her initial excitement crumbles as she struggles with the demanding coursework. Sent to gain experience at a local tuberculosis sanatorium, Ruth is confronted with the harsh realities of illness, death, and prejudice. Surrounded by wounded soldiers, desperate families, and a complex medical environment, she must navigate challenges while honing her skills. Ruth needs to find her strength, compassion, and the resilience to succeed.

The sanatorium, teeming with wounded soldiers and civilians battling the debilitating disease, paints a stark picture of the era’s healthcare realities. The facility fairly overflows with wounded soldiers, women, and children battling the debilitating disease. Ruth grapples with the emotional and physical demands of caring for, and witnessing firsthand, the suffering and resilience of her patients. Ruth must also navigate navigate dormitory life, avoid flirting soldiers, and handle the draining emotional complexities of her family back home. The author skillfully portrays the harsh realities of the medical setting, balancing it with moments of tenderness and compassion. It is easy to empathize with Ruth’s internal struggles as she confronts her own limitations and prejudices. Her journey is one of personal and professional development, and it is satisfying to see her initial naiveté transform into empathy, strength, and self-assuredness as she faces challenges head-on.

Brown immerses the reader in the post-war atmosphere of Canada, capturing the social anxieties, medical advancements (and limitations), and evolving societal roles of women. The struggles of returning soldiers and the stigma surrounding tuberculosis are woven seamlessly into the narrative.

Ruth’s growth is relatable and engaging, and the supporting cast, from other nursing students to her domineering father, adds depth and nuance. The initial chapters do move a bit slowly as the setting and characters are established. I would have liked to see some of the secondary characters (such as Patricia, Mrs. Graham, and Mary) fleshed out some more. This information might have given some more backstory and understanding of their behavioral quirks and motivation.

One thing that was a bit jarring to me were the short paragraphs of medical notes that began each chapter. One was a quote from 1947, quite a few were from Florence Nightingale’s NOTES ON NURSING, and there was one from 2018 quite early on in the book. While I appreciated the “insider information”, I spent a few minutes trying to figure out if the quote was supposed to reflect the tone of the chapter or not. Some were relevant, while others seemed random to me. I did like the idea of headers to each chapter, but I think they would work a lot better if the words tied in with each chapter’s vignette. Another option would be to let the reader know that the paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter are taken from either various authors who are sharing their thoughts on nursing, or excerpts from textbooks that will give the reader background on how TB was treated back then, etc. That would set an expectation for the reader, allowing them to absorb the information, then move seamlessly into the storyline.

SPIT AND POLISH offers a captivating journey through a unique historical setting. Brown’s well-researched narrative sheds light on the challenges and triumphs of mid-century healthcare, while Ruth’s personal growth resonates with themes of ambition and compassion. The novel delves into the emotional toll of caring for the sick and dying, yet the harsh realities of the sanatorium are balanced with moments of tenderness and hope, creating a nuanced portrayal of human resilience. Throughout the book, the importance of human connection in the face of adversity is underscored – a lesson we can all learn from in today’s world.

Readers interested in historical fiction with strong female protagonists and a touch of medical drama will find this book satisfying. One caveat: be aware of the potential for emotional intensity due to the setting and subject matter. ( )
  kwskultety | Mar 5, 2024 |
I requested Spit & Polish from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program because I had an aunt who was in nursing school during World War II, and I am also a recently-retired librarian from a university that used to train nurses. The author, DA (Dorothyanne) Brown, is a retired nurse (albeit from a later time period), and did "extensive research to vividly illustrate the challenges of mid-century health care," according to the Early Reviewers blurb.

I was not disappointed with the history in this book, set in post-World-War-II Canada. Because of some early struggles in nursing school, the main character, Ruth, is assigned to the nearby tuberculosis ward in Kingston, Ontario.

It was fascinating to read about the treatments for tuberculosis (some almost barbaric) prior to the use of appropriate antibiotics. Brown has a two-page bibliography at the end of the advance reader edition, listing her sources.
A complaint I have about the book was a number of omitted words, particularly in some of the quotations, in the advance reader edition I received. The citations for the quotations are inconsistent (some list author, some list title), and at least two are from sources not listed in the bibliography (which needs to be alphabetized). I hope the book undergoes a thorough proofreading before final publication.

Still, I learned a lot reading this book, and I would read another book about historic nursing by this author. I'd also like to read her Recycled Virgin - the title and premise are intriguing! ( )
1 rösta riofriotex | Feb 26, 2024 |
I very much enjoyed Spit and Polish. I wanted to read this book because my mother was in training to be a nurse a few years after the time period of this story, which was set in 1945. I knew my mom made lifelong friends during training, and wanted to know a bit more about what it was like. In the book, Ruth wants to escape small town life, her large family and preacher father, to move to Kingston, Ontario to train as a nurse.

The book was a bit slow at first, with the monotonous drudgery of early training, emptying bedpans and cleaning and making beds. She is assigned a mentor who has no interest in mentoring and Ruth feels unable to complain. But the story became really interesting when she was transferred to a Sanitorium to gain experience and work as a nurses aide taking care of patients with TB. I had no idea that so many Canadians died of TB, and how horrifying the treatments were for the severe cases, before antibiotics were found that were effective against tuberculosis. There were returning soldiers and many Inuit children also receiving treatment.

Each chapter begins with a quote from historical writings about nursing, most from Florence Nightingale's notebooks. These were very interesting as well.

I love books where I identify with the characters, and Ruth was a very sympathetic and resilient character, with all the trials she went through. The author is planning to continue Ruth's story in a sequel, so I will look forward to that. Highly recommended! ( )
1 rösta Scrabblenut | Feb 19, 2024 |
Interesting historical fiction story of a young girl embarking on a career in nursing at a time when women didn't have careers, but were expected to marry and produce children. ( )
  sunqueen | Feb 18, 2024 |
I received Spit and Polish by DA Brown from the Early Reviewers program. When Ruth was accepted into nursing school at Kingston General Hospital, she was overjoyed. However, when she is sent to a local tuberculosis sanitorium due to her lack of nursing schools, she finds that nursing is much harder than she ever imagined. While working on developing her skills, she is soon enveloped in the care and lives of wounded soldiers infected with TB as well as infected women and children. This is Ruth's story as she works to hone her nursing skills so she can return to nursing school and helping patients heal.

This story was an interesting original story, however it missed the mark for me with the character development. i love the those stories where you just fall in love with the characters and unfortunately for me, there just wasn't enough of that character relatability for my liking. ( )
1 rösta debristow | Feb 7, 2024 |
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