Title: The Secret of Raven Point
Author: Jennifer Vanderbes
Publication Date: 4 February 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Juliet Dufresne is a hard-working and smart high-school girl who aspires to make a groundbreaking scientific discovery like her hero Marie Curie. Life in South Carolina with her father, stepmother, and her brother Tuck is safe and happy. But when war breaks out in Europe, Tuck volunteers and serves in Italy—until he goes missing. Juliet, already enrolled in nursing school, is overwhelmed by the loss of her brother, so she lies about her age and enlists to serve as a nurse in the army, hoping she might find him.
Shipped off to Italy at the age of seventeen and thrust into the bloody chaos of a field hospital, Juliet doles out medicine, assists in operations, and is absorbed into the whirlwind of warlife. Slowly she befriends her fellow nurses, her patients, the soldiers, and the doctor who is treating the little-understood condition of battle fatigue. Always seeking news of her brother, her journey is ultimately one of self-discovery.
I’m not typically a big fan of American historical fiction just ’cause. It just doesn’t really appeal to me. But this novel I thoroughly enjoyed.
Vanderbes has a unique and intriguing writing style. I never felt like I was quite in Juliet’s head, I felt a little bit like an outsider looking in. It was almost like reading a biography but in fiction. It was really beautiful and honestly that would be my biggest reason to read this book.
Another thing that I loved were the characters. Just about every single one of the characters in this novel was so beautiful. I wasn’t a particular fan of Juliet and Tuck’s parents however. They were far more complacent than I believe any parents would be in the ’40s. Otherwise, I felt that each of the characters were accurate representations of people during the ’40s. But easily one of my favorite characters would go to Bernice who just embodied the idea of a sexy, ’40s, independent house wife. I loved her so very much!
I’m not going to lie, the premise of the plot wasn’t my absolute favorite but it wasn’t bad. Although it was what drew me into the novel, it honestly wasn’t a good enough reason to continue. Vanderbes mentioned this fact a few times throughout the novel to keep up with the premise but it never really seemed to be an integral part of the story. I honestly believe that the story would have been even better if we had just focused on Juliet’s life during the war and self-discovery rather than on her brother.
Now the plot itself is a different story. The plot was absolutely gorgeous and I enjoyed reading the various time jumps. The little side plots and side character developments were incredible. And it was pretty interesting to see how these side plots and developments integrated to create Juliet’s own story. Furthermore, Juliet’s main plot was also pretty interesting. Her relationship with Simon was also fascinating because it was platonic yet also strangely romantic. All in all, the plot was amazing.
The final thing I would really like to add is that the ending was marvelous. Honestly, it was one of the few times where the plot and the premise lined up quite nicely. But more importantly, it was such a unique ending to a truly interesting character. Juliet’s ending was, I felt, deserved. But I’m sure there are people would disagree.
This book does come highly recommended, if you can’t tell. It’s glorious and lovely and all of those other adjectives to describe something good. Am I saying it was perfect? No. There are flaws. But I still say it’s a worthwhile read.