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The Nurse's Secret: Book summary and reviews of The Nurse's Secret by Amanda Skenandore

The Nurse's Secret by Amanda Skenandore

The Nurse's Secret

A Thrilling Historical Novel of the Dark Side of Gilded Age New York City

by Amanda Skenandore

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  • Published:
  • Jun 2022
    368 pages
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About this book

Book Summary

From acclaimed author and registered nurse Amanda Skenandore, a fascinating historical novel based on the little-known story of America's first nursing school, as a young female grifter in 1880s New York evades the police by conning her way into Bellevue Hospital's training school for nurses…

Based on Florence Nightingale's nursing principles, Bellevue is the first school of its kind in the country. Where once nurses were assumed to be ignorant and unskilled, Bellevue prizes discipline, intellect, and moral character, and only young women of good breeding need apply. At first, Una balks at her prim classmates and the doctors' endless commands. Yet life on the streets has prepared her for the horrors of injury and disease found on the wards, and she slowly gains friendship and self-respect.

Just as she finds her footing, Una's suspicions about a patient's death put her at risk of exposure, and will force her to choose between her instinct for self-preservation, and exposing her identity in order to save others.

Amanda Skenandore brings her medical expertise to a page-turning story that explores the evolution of modern nursing—including the grisly realities of nineteenth-century medicine—as seen through the eyes of an intriguing and dynamic heroine.

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. The Nurse's Secret offers a glimpse of what life was like for America's very first professional nurses. What were some of the most significant differences you noticed between early nursing as it's represented in the novel and your understanding of the profession today?
  2. While reading this novel, in what ways did you notice the nursing profession has remained the same today as it was 150 years ago? Were you surprised by any of these uniformities? Did any scenes or details from the story resonate with your own experiences with modern-day nurses?
  3. To survive in the slums of Gilded Age New York, Una is a liar, a thief, and a con artist with little compassion for the suffering of others. Do you think this makes her immoral? Did you find her to...

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Nurse's Secret:

Are Conor's feelings of blame and contempt of lower classes shared to this day? How are they evident in society?
Wow! Thanks for sharing Katherine Boo's quote. I agree with so many of the sentiments expressed about the lack of compassion and understanding. In my more generous moments, I think that Conor's sentiments are an expression of his own ... - sprokope

Did any of the qualifications required to apply to the Bellevue Nurse Training School surprise you?
I knew about the anti-Catholic sentiment but I hadn't known about the exclusion of divorced women. Thanks for sharing that bit of information Amanda. I thought that the requirements were fairly standard for the time. Nursing was working very ... - sprokope

Do you think Edwin and Una are a good fit for each other? Do you think their relationship will endure?
I think that you have to have the ability to suspend your disbelief to buy into the Edwin and Una match. Although I do have to say that I enjoy a happily ever after, I think that there are some pretty big obstacles (family, education) to ... - sprokope

Do you think Una's survival skills make her immoral? Did you find her to be a likable character?
I think there is nothing immoral about survival. Until you’re in the exact situation, it’s hard to cast such a harsh judgement. I think she did her best to survive and that’s all she could do. - ashleighp

Great wealth and extreme poverty existed side by side in Gilded Age New York. How was this reflected in the novel? Does the same degree of class stratification exist today?
I think the gap between rich and poor is widening and the middle class is being pinched down into the poorer class. I think this has been and will always be a method of control by any elite group. I think it’s easy to look back on period pieces... - ashleighp

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A spellbinding story, a vividly drawn setting, and characters that leap off the pages. This is historical fiction at its finest!" – Sara Ackerman, USA Today bestselling author of The Codebreaker's Secret

  "Scrupulous in her research and practically clairvoyant in her choice of urgent subjects — from the Indigenous boarding schools of her first novel to the disease and quarantine of The Second Life of Mirielle West — historical novelist Amanda Skenandore has quietly become one of the valley's finest authors." —The Las Vegas Review Journal  

This information about The Nurse's Secret was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own reviewwrite your own review

Helen Tedford

TheNurse's Secret
An interesting tale of the effects of poverty and deprevation have on behavior. A love story and a mystery all rolled into one. Also a glance at the profession of nursing and its early stages.

Peg A

A Nurse's secret
A Nurse’s secret is a murder mystery wrapped in a historical fiction. In the 1880’s Bellevue Hospital has become a training school for nurses following the principles of Florence Nightingale.
At the same time a young woman, Una, is forced to live on the streets through unfortunate circumstances and is blamed for a murder. She cons her way into the training school as a way to avoid the police and determined to use the time to solve the murder and clear her name.

The story captures the time period in great detail. The doctors treat the nurses and trainees without respect and often harshly. Nurses and trainees work in terrible conditions and long hours. There is bigotry and big divide between classes with the poor and destitute often being discarded, dismissed or worse.

It is a well-written historical fiction and captivating. The only negative for me was that in parts the detail slowed the story.

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Author Information

Amanda Skenandore

Amanda Skenandore is an award-winning author of historical fiction and a registered nurse. Her debut novel, Between Earth and Sky, was winner of the American Library Association's RUSA Reading List Award and her third novel, The Second Life of Mirielle West, was the 2023 Silicon Valley Reads Selection, an Apple Best Books of the Month and a Hoopla Book Club Pick. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and can be found online at AmandaSkenandore.com.

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