Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "I Was Too Ignorant" by Rosamond Oppersdorff

This story is quite short, only 10 pages long, but to me it felt much longer.

It is about a woman who is working in a military hospital on a base in Brittany during World War II. She has no nursing training at all. She is stuck at the camp because her husband was there and now she cannot leave. Wanting to help, she volunteers to work in the hospital, doing whatever is needed. The hospital wing she is assigned to has 250 beds, cared for by four nurses, plus her, doing the best they can. 

The action in this story takes place between the Battle of Flanders and the Battle of France. Following the Battle of Flanders the hospital is filled with very badly wounded soldiers. 

The woman narrates the story, relating the jobs she is given to do, her fear of doing the wrong thing, the condition of the men who have been hospitalized. 

The story is very moving and very sad. 

"I Was Too Ignorant" was published in Wave Me Goodbye: Stories of the Second World War, edited by Anne Boston. 

The book has an excellent introduction, explaining how the stories were chosen. The authors are all women and the stories took place between 1939 and 1949; all but one story was written at that time. The stories are mostly home front stories (per the introduction). The collection was first put together and published in 1988; the introduction was written by the editor for this new printing.

From the "Notes on the Authors" in Wave Me Goodbye:

Rosamond Oppersdorf, American by birth, lived most of her life in Paris until the outbreak of the war. Her husband was Polish, and after leaving France in 1940 she worked in a Polish Military hospital in Scotland. "I Was Too Ignorant" was published in New Writing and Daylight, edited by John Lehmann, in 1942.

I have read only two additional stories in this book. Both are brief but very good. "When the Waters Came" by Rosamond Lehmann is about 6 pages long, takes place during the "phoney war," and isn't really much about the war at all. "Gas Masks" by Jan Struther is only 3 pages long, and is a Mrs. Miniver story.

I saw a review of this book recently at Katrina's Pining for the West blog, and bought a copy shortly after that. Check out her review.


Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, this does sound like a powerful short story, Tracy. I'm sure it was both moving and sad for the people who lived through that time and that sort of experience, so I'm not surprised that came through in the story.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am going to have to order this--once the holiday is over and I can give myself a present. I have read Rosemary Lehman but i can't remember what.

Diane Kelley said...

Like Margo and Patti, I'm motivated to get a copy of this book based on your fine review! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Cath said...

I've heard of this and that it's very good. Will see if the library has it.

TracyK said...

Margot, based on how much I enjoyed the few stories I have read in the book so far, the rest of the short stories should be very interesting.

TracyK said...

Patti, I think you will like it. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year I buy myself a lot of books. I am hoping to keep it toned down this year but that will be hard.

TracyK said...

George, I hope you do get a copy. I will be doing another post on it sometime, but with Christmas coming up, hard to say when.

TracyK said...

Cath, I have only tried the three stories, but I am confident that all of them will be interesting, because of when they were written and the topic.

CLM said...

I added this to my TBR when Katrina reviewed it and I am glad for the reminder!

I would make a terrible nurse but have always been fascinated by books about nurses and caregiving. One of my favorite books by Frances Parkinson Keyes, Came a Cavalier, is about a young woman from Boston named Constance (!) who volunteers with the Red Cross in France during WWI. She is not a nurse but allowed to do other work for the patients. This experience helps her mature and overcome her awkwardness and the book follows her through WWII. Your story reminded me of this book.

TracyK said...

That does sound like a good book, Constance. Especially the fact that it includes both WWI and WWII. I have not read anything by Keyes.