“The Walnut Tree” by Charles Todd is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. It is published by William Morrow an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. The story begins in France, in July, 1914. The Germans are poised to enter France through Belgium. The British have issued an ultimatum that if the Germans invade Belgium then England will declare war on Germany. It is the start of World War I. Lady Elspeth Douglas of Scotland is visiting her friend Madeleine and her husband Henri. Madeleine is expecting and wants to travel to her home of Villard, France to await the birth of her baby. Because the threat of German invasion is so great, her husband wants her to stay in Paris with Lady Elspeth. Lady Elspeth fancies herself in love with Madeleine’s brother Alain Montigny.
Unfortunately, the Germans overrun the new, small country of Belgium and any British citizen who is still in Paris is trying to get home to England. Lady Elspeth wants to go home and see about her uncle and cousins and to try to do something for the war effort. Before she is able to leave, Alain comes home to say goodbye to his sister and Lady Elspeth and asks for Elspeth’s hand in a marriage to take place after the war is over. Both he and Henri are called to the front and are in the thick of the fighting. Elspeth accepts Alain’s ring with the understanding that he will approach her uncle and ask for her hand. Until then, the arrangement is to be kept secret.
As Lady Elspeth is trying to get to Calais to board a ship for Dover she was caught up in the exodus of the wounded from the front. She tried to help nurse those who were injured and subsequently found herself close to the battlefield and ran into a friend of her cousin’s Peter Gilchrist. He took her under his wing and helped her get back to Calais. In helping nurse the soldiers in the field, she decided that she would try to join Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. As a member of the peerage, Elspeth should have had the permission of her guardian, her uncle. However, knowing that he would refuse her she let it be known that she was alone in the world and did not refer to herself as Her Ladyship.
Lady Elspeth successfully completed her Sister’s training and then was sent to France to help tend the wounded. She would then make return trips to care for troops who were being transported back to England to recuperate. Along the way, she met up with Peter Gilchrist again and fell in love. The rest of the story has to be experienced as you read this book. Believe me you will not be sorry that you have this book in your library. I fell in love with the characters in this book and the time period. I truly felt as though I was there with Lady Elspeth as she and her countrymen came to grips with the war and their part in it.
I received a free Kindle copy of this book from Harper Collins in return for my honest review.