Letters from Alice: A tale of hardship and hope. A search for the truth.
This book read well and was a window into the early days of hospital almoners. The problems tackled were immense and the reader begins to understand the pressure on hospitals to provide care free to those in need. I wish that the background of Alice had been more fully revealed as she seems to have been a remarkable woman in a demanding job, relying on instinct and innate intelligence. Even more fascinating is that the files at the Royal Free Hospital from the 1920s were available for the author to study so these were authentic case histories.
This is a very interesting book in terms of historical aspects. The book carefully details the daily life of an almoner - who seems to be a cross between a nurse, social worker, fundraiser and debt collector for the hospital. The book is set in the early 20th century and gives a good idea of what life was like then for the poor and ill of London.
I found the writing to be a bit romanticised in parts and the story line, albeit based on actual letters, a bit cliched. It is hard to imagine from our present point of view the realities of the day and how different and difficult things were. I would have liked to have known more details about the main character, Alice, and why she took up this profession, her background, more about her lifestyle, why she would sacrifice so much to take on this role, her romantic life, what makes her tick, etc.
There are a number of stories within the main story - I particularly like the one about the man trying to get free hospital help whilst not disclosing his wealth. Once discovered, the almoner manages to get a very worthy and entertaining outcome.
Whilst this is a highly readable book, for me the story line and characterisation were a bit thin; however a very interesting read historically.