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The Forbidden Zone: A Nurse's Impressions of the First World War

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Mary Borden worked for four years in an evacuation hospital unit following the front lines up and down the European theater of the First World War. This beautifully written book, to be read alongside the likes of Sassoon, Graves, and Remarque, is a collection of her memories and impressions of that experience. Describing the men as they march into battle, engaging imaginat Mary Borden worked for four years in an evacuation hospital unit following the front lines up and down the European theater of the First World War. This beautifully written book, to be read alongside the likes of Sassoon, Graves, and Remarque, is a collection of her memories and impressions of that experience. Describing the men as they march into battle, engaging imaginatively with the stories of individual soldiers, and recounting procedures at the field hospital, the author offers a perspective on the war that is both powerful and intimate.


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Mary Borden worked for four years in an evacuation hospital unit following the front lines up and down the European theater of the First World War. This beautifully written book, to be read alongside the likes of Sassoon, Graves, and Remarque, is a collection of her memories and impressions of that experience. Describing the men as they march into battle, engaging imaginat Mary Borden worked for four years in an evacuation hospital unit following the front lines up and down the European theater of the First World War. This beautifully written book, to be read alongside the likes of Sassoon, Graves, and Remarque, is a collection of her memories and impressions of that experience. Describing the men as they march into battle, engaging imaginatively with the stories of individual soldiers, and recounting procedures at the field hospital, the author offers a perspective on the war that is both powerful and intimate.

30 review for The Forbidden Zone: A Nurse's Impressions of the First World War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Mary Borden was an exceptional woman. She used her own funds to set up a hospital in France during the First World War and worked as a nurse for the four years. The Forbidden Zone, which was first published in 1929, is a collection of impressionistic pieces of fiction which vividly convey what it must have been like to work in the hospitals. She writes extremely well and you can see, hear and smell the wounded and the orderlies. It ranks with the best writing about the war that I've read. I can't Mary Borden was an exceptional woman. She used her own funds to set up a hospital in France during the First World War and worked as a nurse for the four years. The Forbidden Zone, which was first published in 1929, is a collection of impressionistic pieces of fiction which vividly convey what it must have been like to work in the hospitals. She writes extremely well and you can see, hear and smell the wounded and the orderlies. It ranks with the best writing about the war that I've read. I can't help feeling that if she'd been a man, then her work might not have been neglected but I am glad that Hesperus Press have brought it back into print.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Yooperprof

    Mary Borden was an American woman (and heiress) from Chicago, married to a Briton and living in England, who volunteered to serve as a nurse in French hospitals on the Western Front. This collection of "narratives" is a mixed bag. Some of the selections are full of "purple prose," overwritten, and reflecting a prose style which more austere authors of the 20th century discredited. Many 21st century readers will find these narratives unimpressive. Other narratives - especially those in the "Somme" Mary Borden was an American woman (and heiress) from Chicago, married to a Briton and living in England, who volunteered to serve as a nurse in French hospitals on the Western Front. This collection of "narratives" is a mixed bag. Some of the selections are full of "purple prose," overwritten, and reflecting a prose style which more austere authors of the 20th century discredited. Many 21st century readers will find these narratives unimpressive. Other narratives - especially those in the "Somme" section of the book - are among the finest WWI writing I've read anywhere. I have been looking to find crisp, articulate, committed writing from medical personnel on the Western Front in WWI, and I've found it in "narratives" like "Moonlight" and "In the Operating Room" here in Borden's "Forbidden Zone."

  3. 4 out of 5

    KJ Workman

    This was a rather interesting book. They are recounting of the author when she served as a nurse during World War I. The stories she tells are depressing (I mean, it's about war and death, so yeah) but the imagery she uses is amazing. That made me continue to want to pick up the book to read more. This was a rather interesting book. They are recounting of the author when she served as a nurse during World War I. The stories she tells are depressing (I mean, it's about war and death, so yeah) but the imagery she uses is amazing. That made me continue to want to pick up the book to read more.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Mary Borden is an exceptional writer with great perception and a keen eye for detail. This little book says more about the horrors of war than anything else I've read. She set up a field hospital behind the French lines and nursed hundreds of men, as well as being forced to make decisions for the surgeons as to which soldiers to treat first and whose injuries were going to prove fatal. Mary and her medical team worked relentlessly to patch these men up only for them to be sent straight back to t Mary Borden is an exceptional writer with great perception and a keen eye for detail. This little book says more about the horrors of war than anything else I've read. She set up a field hospital behind the French lines and nursed hundreds of men, as well as being forced to make decisions for the surgeons as to which soldiers to treat first and whose injuries were going to prove fatal. Mary and her medical team worked relentlessly to patch these men up only for them to be sent straight back to the trenches to fight. Few made it back to Blighty and for the ones that did, their lives were ruined. They were both physically and mentally scarred for life. The account which touched me most was of the soldier who'd shot himself in the mouth, because he couldn't face the prospect of going over the top again. He survived. Once the surgeons had seen to his injuries, he was to be court-marshalled and shot by his own men. What was the point in saving him? What was the point of the war? This certainly isn't an easy read, with graphic descriptions of injuries and the grim reality of life in the trenches, but it gives an interesting insight into the life of a nurse during that time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hector Castro

    This was the first book I'd read that provided a perspective on WW1 from someone other than soldiers and pilots. It was touching and beautifully written. Mary Borden was an extraordinary woman and a gifted writer. This was the first book I'd read that provided a perspective on WW1 from someone other than soldiers and pilots. It was touching and beautifully written. Mary Borden was an extraordinary woman and a gifted writer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    MaryEllen Clark

    Amazingly beautiful writing about her impressions in a most terrible time of war.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mike Fitzgerald

    so sensitive it takes your breath away- lovely to see a female perspective of WW1

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christine Parker

    I would have preferred a straightforward account..which I thought it was going to be...rather than a series of essays some of which tried to be too clever with the writing style

  9. 5 out of 5

    Maud Van Keulen

    It is the horriffing truth about the war that everone should read

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Read for Dr. Carter's American Literature 1880-1960. Read for Dr. Carter's American Literature 1880-1960.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mollie Johnson

    An uncensored, beautifully written account of the First World War. Absolutely amazing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Book Collector Girl

    Absolute must-read for anyone interested in WW1. Borden is an exceptional writer.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Brilliant.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mighty_k24

    In't kort: Mary Borden kwam als Amerikaanse miljonairsdochter naar Europa om tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog als verpleegster aan het Belgische en Franse front te werken. In korte verhalen vertelt ze onverbloemd over de verschrikkingen, verminkingen, slapeloze nachten en hulpeloze soldaten. Mijn oordeel: Borden ondervond de grootste moeilijkheden om haar boek gepubliceerd te krijgen, en als je het gelezen hebt, kan je inschatten waarom. Haar verhaal staat diametraal tegenover wat de media en de ov In't kort: Mary Borden kwam als Amerikaanse miljonairsdochter naar Europa om tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog als verpleegster aan het Belgische en Franse front te werken. In korte verhalen vertelt ze onverbloemd over de verschrikkingen, verminkingen, slapeloze nachten en hulpeloze soldaten. Mijn oordeel: Borden ondervond de grootste moeilijkheden om haar boek gepubliceerd te krijgen, en als je het gelezen hebt, kan je inschatten waarom. Haar verhaal staat diametraal tegenover wat de media en de overheden de goegemeente wilden laten geloven in hun opgesmukte en heroische versies. Zonder poespas, maar wel met veel empathie en medelijden en in een prachtige taal verhaalt Borden over een soldaat die enkel nog 'Rosa' (zijn moeder, zijn zus, zijn lief?) over zijn lippen krijgt. Of over l'Enfant de Malheur, een vagebond die onder de wapens is geroepen, zijn einde voelt naderen en zich verzoent met Onze Lieve Heer. Of over de helse nachten in het operatiekwartier na alweer enkele dagen onafgebroken Duitse bombardementen. Het boek werd onlangs vertaald naar het Nederlands door auteur Erwin Mortier, en die heeft zich uitstekend gekweten van zijn taak. De taal zorgt er mee voor dat je meegezogen wordt naar het kleine veldhospitaal, en de hel daar laat je echt niet los. Het boek is vergelijkbaar met 'Heldenangst' (cfr hier voor mijn bespreking), maar voor mij net niet van hetzelfde kaliber, een net ietsje minder straffe stomp in mijn maag. Daarom... Eindoordeel: ****1/2. Maar voor mij, net als 'Heldenangst', verplichte kost voor jan en alleman.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    The Forbidden Zone by Mary Borden (the 1930 edition) is an impressionistic memoir of the wounded and their care givers of the First World War. The book comprises three parts. The first two parts are extended prose poems, sketches and story fragments centring on the nursing and surgical staff of a field hospital in France, or of the wounded soldiers. The bits and pieces vary in length and are somewhat uneven in effectiveness. The best are very good indeed. For example, the pieces called "Moonligh The Forbidden Zone by Mary Borden (the 1930 edition) is an impressionistic memoir of the wounded and their care givers of the First World War. The book comprises three parts. The first two parts are extended prose poems, sketches and story fragments centring on the nursing and surgical staff of a field hospital in France, or of the wounded soldiers. The bits and pieces vary in length and are somewhat uneven in effectiveness. The best are very good indeed. For example, the pieces called "Moonlight" and "Blind" are very effective in giving a powerful impression of the battle between life and death and pain. The third part of the book consists of five poems. The most effective poem is "The Song of The Mud" which is a meditation on the endless despoiled ground of the battlefields "... the smooth fluid grave of our soldiers."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul Taylor

    A Woman of Two Wars impressed me but this was exceptional. Some of the shortest, most potent stories emphasising the pity and pointlessness of war. Her range is exceptional from the two blunt Tommies mistakenly brought to her hospital through the deathbed conversion of a serial criminal to the ethereal evocation of the other worldliness of HoE 32, comparing it to some hideous parody of a flooded shoreline.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Usually you only find war accounts from soldiers, but this was an amazing change of view from a nurse's perspective. Mary Borden tells stories about soldiers and war involving a battle with death instead of with the enemies. For a book about war, this is great. However, I would not suggest reading this book just for fun. Usually you only find war accounts from soldiers, but this was an amazing change of view from a nurse's perspective. Mary Borden tells stories about soldiers and war involving a battle with death instead of with the enemies. For a book about war, this is great. However, I would not suggest reading this book just for fun.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    The Forbidden Zone is without a doubt the most amazing book I've read by a WWI nurse. The stories in this book are beautiful, traumatic, and will stay with you for a long time. Fun fact: it's available online for free http://www.ourstory.info/library/2-ww... The Forbidden Zone is without a doubt the most amazing book I've read by a WWI nurse. The stories in this book are beautiful, traumatic, and will stay with you for a long time. Fun fact: it's available online for free http://www.ourstory.info/library/2-ww...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ronald_h

    Short observations and poems of a nurse working just behind the front lines in WWI. Not a coherent story, but deeply moving all the same. There is no glory in war, there never has been en never will be.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Corinne

    Really good memoir. Shocking imagery at times - obviously appropriate given the subject matter. Reads wonderfully - almost feels like poetry at times. Well worth a read if you want to learn more about different groups of people's experiences of the war. Really good memoir. Shocking imagery at times - obviously appropriate given the subject matter. Reads wonderfully - almost feels like poetry at times. Well worth a read if you want to learn more about different groups of people's experiences of the war.

  21. 4 out of 5

    María

    A terrifying picture. A supposed sweet, tender and lovely woman taking care of the ill people becomes a journalist of the Evil fighting with the world. A nurse portraying World War.

  22. 5 out of 5

    John Lewis

    Certainly a muddled account, not what I'd call engaging though. Certainly a muddled account, not what I'd call engaging though.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The new edition of Mary Borden's World War I sketches and poems omits the all of the (5) poems that make up the third section of her book as originally published. Read the original edition. The new edition of Mary Borden's World War I sketches and poems omits the all of the (5) poems that make up the third section of her book as originally published. Read the original edition.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gemma Birkett

    An interesting insight and great memories shared. Thought I would enjoy this book more than I did but still an enjoyable read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Becky

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tina Cassidy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Griet Peters

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gert

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Norris

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

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