So, a little earlier this week, I finished my 200th totally new never-before read book of the year, making me officially there and back again for the 100 books in 2011 reading challenge. The List, incidentally, is here
, for the morbidly curious.
It happened to be Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
's The Healer's War
which quite deservedly won a Nebula Award and which I think I bought during Fictionwise's 60% off sale for last year's Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
Well, whatever I paid for it, it was money well spent.
The core of the story is that Kitty, a US military nurse stationed during the Vietnam War, acquires an unusual patient in her ward, and things go from there in a way that would thoroughly spoiler you if I described it.
Needless to say, it's a very moving story about the entire spectrum of human emotion, reason, and reaction between help and harm, and the way the war changes people on all sides for better or worse, and how they have to live with the choices they make, if they are able to make choices at all under the circumstances.
Very highly recommended, though I'll warn you that some portions can be upsetting due to subject matter, and can be very emotionally exhausting because, well, front-line nursing during a war. But it's a really good book that you should read if you're interested in this kind of story.
Also read a little prior to that Scarborough's short-story collection Scarborough Fair and Other Stories
, which was another Fictionwise sale pickup. Clearly, her writing is much stronger in novel-length format.
Don't get me wrong, the stories are all decently written and some quite charming, but most of them are fairly light, insubstantial stuff in comparison. Certainly worth an initial read, but not necessarily a re-visit later on unless you really like fluffy humorous fantasy involving cats.
However, there were three standout stories which were of a noticeably higher quality: Worse Than The Curse
, a really nice take on the usual fairy tale tropes of haughty royals learning what's truly important in life, Long Time Coming Home
, a story of life for the veterans after the Vietnam War, and the titular Scarborough Fair
, which had some nifty discussions of how to use modern technology to fulfill the "impossible challenge" conventions of true love's demands in folksongs ("a shirt without no seams nor needlework" and such).
Mild-to-medium recommend. If you already like Scarborough's writing, then this will be a pleasant collection to read; otherwise pretty much any of her novels will be a better introductory work.