Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Beauty Shop - NOT a girly novel

Greetings, Deplorables and dedicated history buffs ;-)

I know The Beauty Shop looks like a frilly girly romance, but it's not. I promise, there is plenty for guys to like. Your testosterone levels will not decline, I promise. Actually, it's a serious, expertly crafted historical novel set during WWII.

England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. But in this darkest of days, three lives intertwine, changing their destinies and those of many more.

Dr Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealand plastic surgeon with unorthodox methods, is on a mission to treat and rehabilitate badly burned airmen – their bodies and souls. With the camaraderie and support of the Guinea Pig Club, his boys battle to overcome disfigurement, pain, and prejudice to learn to live again.

John ‘Mac’ Mackenzie of the US Air Force is aware of the odds. He has one chance in five of surviving the war. Flying bombing missions through hell and back, he’s fighting more than the Luftwaffe. Fear and doubt stalk him on the ground and in the air, and he’s torn between his duty and his conscience.

Shy, decent and sensible Stella Charlton’s future seems certain until war breaks out. As a new recruit to the WAAF, she meets an American pilot on New Year’s Eve. After just one dance, she falls head over heels for the handsome airman. But when he survives a crash, she realises her own battle has only just begun.

Based on a true story, "The Beauty Shop" is a moving tale of love, compassion, and determination against a backdrop of wartime tragedy.

My thoughts:
I was immediately intrigued by this novel, because I have a recurring nightmare about seeing a burning plane crashing in the field. The mixture of terror and curiosity give me night sweats.

When I read the author's bio, I was not surprised that she had a career in healthcare. The medical parts of the novel are explored in depth. Henderson understands the pressures and the rewards of a military medic's life. She understands the loneliness, the stress, the need for humor, the frustration of dealing with obstinate patients, the temptation to get emotionally involved with them. The air battle scenes are also top notch. They are gorgeous, eloquent, striking, raw and just technical enough without sounding like they came from an air combat manual.

Now, romance is the weakest aspect of the novel. In fact, some passages sound like they were written by another author. Such an impressive piece of prose is speckled with pedestrian stock expressions that you would lift out of a romance. "Deep blue eyes", "butterflies in the stomach", "soft lips" and "I can't leave him at a time like this". Thankfully, those occurrences are not numerous. They made me wrinkle my nose a few times but not wince all the way.

I am not sure which aspect of the novel is prevalent. Is it a hardcore military history piece? Is it a field hospital drama? It's certainly not a historical romance. I wish the cover had more testosterone on it. I wish it showed more of the airplane or some surgical equipment as opposed to a girl in the middle of a field. You wouldn't know that it's a serious historical piece. I hope that WWII buffs do not pass on this novel because of the cover and the title. I do not have the heart to subtract stars from such a fine novel. I give it 4.5, but post 5 stars.

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