I knew little about what took place in the Philippines during World War II—most of the books I’ve read about that era were set in the European theatre—so Angels of the Pacific was enlightening.
Elise Hooper’s historical novel was inspired by the true stories of US Army nurses and the contributions of Filipinas of the resistance. Nurse Tess Abbott is posted in Manila and enjoys life in a tropical paradise near sandy beaches and exciting nightclubs and restaurants. But when the Japanese Imperial Army invades the island nation, the nurses escape to Bataan where they live in the squalor of a battlefield hospital. On April 9, 1942, the American forces on Bataan surrendered to the Japanese. They sent medical personnel to the island of Corregidor where they cared for wounded in the Malinta Tunnel and were eventually captured as prisoners of war and held in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp for four years, where they provide lifesaving care to the civilian POWs.
In 2020 I read author Elise Hooper’s novel Fast Girls about three members of the US Olympic team who take part in the 1936 summer games in Berlin, Germany. I enjoyed it very much and was excited to receive an ARC of Angels of the Pacific.
It’s well plotted, fast-paced, and packed with action. The characters are likeable and strong, and I cheered for them as I flipped through the pages. The author did a terrific job painting word pictures of working in a field hospital on the Bataan Peninsula. Jungle life was miserable. The insects, the constant heat and humidity, the filth, hunger, and agony. “The toll of living in the jungle revealed itself when we lined up with the other nurses who had arrived on Corregidor directly from Manila four months earlier. Those of us who had spent time in the jungle appeared feral. Our hair had grown wild, well beyond regulation off-the-collar length, our coveralls were in tatters, our cuts in rations had left us underweight and gaunt, and our sallow skin glowed with a dull sheen of malarial fever sweat.”
I was invested in the story and the struggles of the characters tugged at my emotions, but I found the writing to be average. Still recommended at 4 stars.
** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of the book. The opinions in this review are my own.