‘The Women’ illuminates women in war | By the Book

Kristin Hannah, the author of “The Nightingale,” takes readers back to the 1960s with her new release, “The Women.” This book illuminates a woman who served as a nurse in the Vietnam War.

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

If you’re interested in reading this book, I’d recommend keeping some tissues nearby. 

“The Women” follows Frankie McGrath, a twenty-year-old raised in Southern California. Frankie grew up in a conservative household, and after her brother leaves to serve in Vietnam, she realizes that women can be ‘heroes’ too. Against her family’s wishes, she enlists in the Army Nurse Corps and is sent to Vietnam. 

Frankie is stunned by the horrors experienced in Vietnam and treats men with all types of injuries, including Rye, a man from her hometown who was the first to tell her that “women can be heroes.” 

However, the war is just the beginning for Frankie and her fellow companions. After returning home to a divided America that refuses to believe that women served in Vietnam, Frankie spirals into her PTSD and struggles with returning to normalcy. 

However, through the deep bond of her friendships with other nurses in Vietnam, she is able to be pulled back to full mental and physical health and realize that her legacy matters. 

Reading about Frankie, a character who defied societal norms and familial expectations, resonated deeply with me. It was inspiring to see her determination to follow her calling, even when it went against the expectations of her family and society. 

Hannah did a fantastic job of making Frankie a multidimensional character. I found her to be flawed, but relatable, which made me more invested in her story and character development. However, she wasn’t an extremely likable character, which might steer some readers away from the book. I thought she let the romance sway her rather than the actual traumatic events she went through. 

The only other negative aspect of this book was the length. Though the story was immersive and kept my attention the entire time, it dragged at points, especially with the romance. I wish Hannah had let Frankie remain independent throughout the book and did not let a large portion of the story have her feelings defined by a man. 

Frankie and the story itself brought to mind the countless women throughout history who have defied expectations and made significant contributions in the face of adversity. This book was extremely powerful and one of the most impactful accounts of war I have ever read.

The amount of imagery and description in this novel make it a perfect fit for a potential movie. Frankie’s journey would offer a nuanced perspective of a woman in the Vietnam War. Frankie’s experiences after the war would provide a gateway into the realities soldiers and nurses alike face with post-traumatic stress disorder and the challenges of transitioning back to ‘normal’ life after war. Also, the rocky romances would add an additional layer of emotion and depth. 

This adaptation may very well happen, as according to Hannah’s website, Warner Bros Motion Picture Group pre-bought the rights to ‘The Women,’ before the book was released. This wouldn’t be Hannah’s first book to movie adaptation; her book “Firefly Lane” was turned into a Netflix television show in 2021.  

So, if you’re looking for a compelling read that not only transports you to a pivotal moment in history but also celebrates women’s resilience, I highly recommend picking up “The Women.” This book reminds us that heroism doesn’t have a gender.

“The Women” was the first book of Hannah’s that I have read, and it certainly won’t be the last. Hannah’s writing flowed seamlessly from the beginning to the end of this book and makes me excited to read her other books. 

Don’t believe the lie if somebody insists that there were no women in Vietnam. There were, but they were never recognized as heroes like the men were. Thanks to authors like Hannah, their stories are finally being told. 

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One Comment

  1. I grew up in Southern Calif in Corona in Riverside County. I didn’t realize the author
    grew up in SoCal.
    I graduated from high school in 1965 a brother Jack was drafted & went to Vietnam. Another brother Bill joined the Army & didn’t have to go.
    I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when they were both in the Army. I me t & married my husband who had been in Vietnam in the
    Navy for a year in 1966. He had an aunt who served as an Army nurse in Vietnam, & became a colonel eventually. Her husband had the same rank before her, & was a hospital administrator at The Presidio in San Francisco, their last duty station.
    I became a nurse after having my kids.