Nan’s mother Ruby asserts that Nan is Nelson’s daughter, fathered while Ruby was mending sails on the Victory, Nelson’s famous ship. While Ruby drinks her way into destitution, Nan has her sights on a better way of life, working in a dispensary and marrying a doctor. But her mind never strays from the idea of being Nelson’s daughter.
Nan visits the Greenwich home for retired sailors where fond memories of Nelson are the order of the day, and eventually meets Mrs Horatia Ward, who possibly really is Nelson’s daughter, but would rather not admit it. Meanwhile another war is on the horizon, and Nan’s daughter Pru is determined to join a nursing contingent bound for Crimea, in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale.
While the story behind Nan’s parentage is a key part of the plot, the rich social and historical background Graham creates is enthralling, with its glimpse of women’s working opportunities and details of medical treatments of the time. As usual with Graham’s novels, there is plenty of humour throughout, and her lively narrative style makes the story very immediate. If you haven't discovered Laurie Graham yet, you have treats in store.
Posted by JAM