Marilee J. Layman (mjlayman) wrote,
Marilee J. Layman

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We Band of Angels by Elizabeth M. Norman

This book is the story of the Army and Navy nurses who were trapped on Bataan and imprisoned on Corrigedor and in the Manila area by the Japanese during the beginning of WWII in the Pacific. The author is a nursing professor and she talks a bit at the end about why she calls them "angels" rather than "heroes." What bothers me the most is how she calls them "soldiers." It's true that these days we have field medics and lots of support staff all called soldiers because they're trained that way, but in those days there was a big difference between soldiers and nurses and while these nurses worked in really awful jungle conditions and were imprisoned with 350 calories daily, they still didn't use guns or plan raids or work out strategies.

There are really sad and horrible stories in this book and we learn a lot about a few of the nurses, but I found a lot of contradictions within the book. First, she used "(sic)" when there were errors in the written pieces from the nurses (and once when there wasn't), but there were several misspellings* and misuse of words in her part (formerly instead of formally, epicenter instead of center, diurnal instead of daily, wove instead of knit, etc.) as well as a lack of the serial comma which added confusion. She also misused "less" for "fewer."

Secondly, she constantly bounces back and forth between saying men were wrong for treating the nurses special or as the "fairer sex" and saying the nurses didn't get enough attention. She also talked about how bad it was the nurses were used as a propaganda machine after they were freed but were forgotten when the war ended. She talks about how wonderful the nurses were because they were nurses, but then makes some sound worse than others.

Thirdly, she clearly dislikes the military, in just about every possible way (it is not possible to predict exactly how another country will attack and you prepare the best way you can), and she hates the Navy more than the Army. But the nurses were all right because they were, you know, nurses.

And at the end, she writes "[the women] prized their affiliation, their sorority, their womanhood because, as women, they were more naturally comrades than men." I think that's crap.

A bit about the organization of the book: the chapters are in narrative mode with endnotes marked all through. There are inadequate maps at the front of the book and there's 45 pages of resources at the end of the book: a timeline, a list of the nurses and other women who were imprisoned, a bibliography, the endnotes, and an index. She's clearly researched this quite well, but put her own spin on it. There are two sections of glossy page photos where it is striking to see how the women change over the years. She interviewed several of the women who were still living and would talk to her, and admits at the end of the book that she came to have a personal link to one, which was so obvious through the book that I'd been taking notes about it.

As much as I wanted to feel more for the story, I kept being pulled out by the errors, contradictions, dislike of the military, and favoritism. Here's rivka's review which is what pushed me to get it out of the library. rivka loved it and maybe you will, too.

*(sic) for "Waikii" but the book soon says "Siapan"

(Thank Ghu I read SF tonight.)
Tags: books

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