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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Women by Kristin Hannah

Hannah offers a meaty story about Vietnam and the nurses who served there, suffered, and were largely forgotten or denied; this storyline is conflated with romance-novel elements that keep things moving but frequently pulled me out of the historical fiction story I loved.


I loved Kristin Hannah's book The Nightingale and mentioned it in my Greedy Reading List Six Books about Brave Female Spies.

But I've been frustrated while reading some other Hannah stories by what feels like odd pacing, soap-opera elements, outlandish events, or too-easy resolutions--despite the novels' promising and captivating premises (for example, with The Great Alone and Winter Garden).

Kristin Hannah's The Women offered an irresistible setup for me, so I was in for another Hannah novel. The Women shines a light on the women who served pivotal roles in the Vietnam War--but whose existence was largely ignored, forgotten, or denied by Americans at home.

Main protagonist Frankie signs up to leave her idyllic, privileged Southern California life--and the control of her conservative parents--in order to serve as a nurse serving soldiers in combat. Her brother is killed in combat before she even ships out, and her parents reject her potential to be a war hero worthy of a photo on the family's wall of honor, so she is reeling before she even enters the shock of Vietnam.

She faces repeated horrors of war, must find her own inner fortitude, and forges eternal loyalty and friendship with others coping with the same crises.

When she returns home, she faces anti-war sentiments, the shock of returning to her pre-war life, and coping with the trauma of many months overseas amid destruction and death.

The wartime detail as well as the jarring shift to post-war life were exceptional elements. The excellent historical fiction here is conflated with romance-novel-worthy storylines and dialogue ("You don't know how beautiful you are" types of lines; unrealistically convenient run-ins; not-dead-after-all twists; and more). This aspect keeps the story moving, although it frequently distracted me from the hearty story of Vietnam, its complex costs and its dark perception at home, and the truth about the many forgotten women serving as nurses there, whose bravery helped send so many injured American soldiers home.

I listened to The Women as an audiobook.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Kristin Hannah is the author of more than twenty novels, including The Nightingale, which I loved and mentioned in my Greedy Reading List Six Books about Brave Female Spies.

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