Fiction Short Take: The Fire by Night – Teresa Messineo

Women’s historical fiction covering the war years of the 20th century constitutes a very hot subgenre these days. It’s a territory crowded with releases so I was pleased to see this debut get recognition by booksellers and reviewers alike. A sort of female “Band of Brothers,” The Fire by Night tells the story of women who served as military nurses during WWII.

“Debut novelist Messineo captures the intensity of grimy conditions in field hospitals and internment camps as well as the exhausted yet relentless sense of duty propelling Kay Elliot and Jo McMahon….Alternating between each woman’s perspective, chapter by chapter, Messineo is at her best when describing the squalid environment and psychological mayhem, creating an All Quiet on the Western Front from American women’s perspectives. In the theaters of wars, these nurses practice astonishing acts of mercy—including the embrace of a lover during a soldier’s death throes….A vibrant telling of the nurses’ nightmares during a brutal war.”

Messineo’s writing style, in which scenes often play out without extensive explanation but are later elucidated, adds to the feel of wartime chaos and works well with the story’s disjointed time jumps… The novel’s strength lies in how well it conveys—mostly without sentimentality—the selflessness and bravery of nurses during the darkest hours.”
Publishers Weekly

The Fire by Night was completely stunning. Reading the stories of two military nurses was a heart-wrenching, yet hopeful experience. Both women find truth and fulfillment in their lives even while dealing with gritty reality of PTSD. There were scenes in this book that left me emotionally wrecked, but the beauty of the writing and the characters was astonishing. The research is also very thorough and created a realistic read….[I]t left me in awe at the strength of both women, and their drive to continue after such horrific events. I can easily recommend this book to historical fiction readers.”
— Kate Schreffler, Joseph-Beth, Lexington, KY

The Fire by Night (9780062459107) by Teresa Messineo. $26.99 hardcover. 1/17/17 on sale.

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