By: Mary-Rose MacColl
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: August 27, 2012
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: August 20, 2013
When Iris Crane receives an invitation to a ceremony honoring the women who ran Royaumont, a field hospital in France during WWI, memories come flooding back. She remembers following her under-age younger brother to war in Europe, determined to bring him home, but instead remained in France to serve at Royaumont Abbey on the outskirts of Paris, staffed exclusively by women. Despite the horrors of war, Royaumont became home for Iris. She met a remarkable group of women including the spirited Violet Heron, discovered a talent for medicine and fell in love. Yet just three years later, Iris left Royaumont and never looked back.
In the story, as Iris remembers times in the past and present the readers learn about the full life that she had; from living on a farm, to being a nurse in WWI and then, after this, becoming a wife, widow, mother and grandmother back in Australia.
Iris’s granddaughter, Grace, is a doctor, living near Iris in Brisbane. Grace is a very busy women looking after her husband and three children and working as an obstetrician at a major hospital. She is trying to keep up with the demanding work that she chose and the family she and her husband are trying to raise. Grace is worried about her son’s health, and also, the fact that Iris's health is failing and she doesn’t think Iris should plan to attend the event in France. Grace does not know most of her grandmother’s past and is completely surprised by what she discovers when she takes Iris’s place at the event because Iris passed away before she could make the trip.
The author does a fantastic job switching between the lives of the two women and leaving the reader with an understanding of the many changes in the way women were treated over the years. For example, the work of women in medicine as far as working as doctors instead of nurses; also the role in running a home and taking care of children while the man of the house went out and made a living.
Quill says: In Falling Snow is based on the real Royaumont, a hospital completely run by women during WWI. The incredible women who served as doctors, nurses, orderlies and drivers in an all women hospital. A wonderful story!!