Rickett, in his nonfiction debut, astutely backs out of the way, letting his father’s journals of wartime doctoring—and life, as it happened between the emergencies—carry the day.
Like any good physician, Dr. Jim Rickett paid close attention to the mental and emotional well-being of those around him. He often recorded those details in diary entries and letters to his wife, Dorothy. His remembrances dance from observations of human perseverance to the classic British stiff upper lip: “[T]his morning there was some more machine gunning, but I was safely tucked away having a bath.” Such baths were left behind, though, when Rickett was pulled from his community practice to scratch a field hospital out of nothing on the tiny isle of Vis off the coast of Italy and Yugoslavia, piecing commandos back together as they returned from raids on German-controlled islands in the Adriatic Sea. He was soon revealed to be a man in his element, bartering boots for supplies and, when operating, balancing the need for light against the strict requirements of a wartime blackout. His world was a time and place where, out of necessity, blood for transfusions could be stored in old wine bottles. The younger Rickett steps in only occasionally, deftly footnoting medical terms or establishing historical context. World War II neophytes won’t be left to drift, and war buffs will still appreciate this graceful, intelligent account from a man who unexpectedly found himself directly, intimately besieged on the front lines.
Together, Rickett’s commentary and his son’s light touch chronicle the intricacies of man’s wartime condition, at which official records and most battle accounts only hint.