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for First Do No Harm

4/3/2018 c7 7Bathsheba Blythe
You couldn't have written a better ending to this story, Alinya.

First of all, what made this chapter even more striking than it is already by itself are the colours within it. The reds, the blues, the whites, the lavender (especially the lavender is haunting here)... It was so fitting and it seemed like Faith wanted to search for any poetry within all of her work which in true reality may seem far from poetry indeed. The colours made all those scenes within this chapter even more vivid and more emotional, for me anyway. I absolutely loved that detail.

I can completely relate to Faith here and how she hates this feeling of helplessness. In her profession, and with any other healthcare related profession, this is the worst part and the worst feeling, the one that every nurse, doctor, midwife and so on simply hates. And I was shocked and completely broken hearted about Lili. From all the people she'd be the last one I'd think of as having such a terrible end.

There's so much in this chapter that I think, despite its having some of the most heartbreaking and saddening moments, I consider it my favourite from this story. It reads like a poem, it really does.

Thank you so much for writing such a beautiful and an inspiring story, Alinya!
4/3/2018 c6 Bathsheba Blythe
I truly loved this chapter, but it's no surprise as you've written it so well.

I was so happy yet wistful to see Carl. I was glad that he had this lightness and optimism about him but this image of him is disturbed by his lovely eyes being in such a terrible state. I can only imagine what Faith thought and felt, and how scared she was to take off the bandage from his eyes to see if their Mum's eyes are still visible in his. That's why I absolutely adored, but it broke my heart each time too, this repetition of "Mummy's eyes", such a beautiful detail.

It was interesting to see Faith trying to separate her two selves all at once: to take care of Carl's eye, she has to stop being the older sister and become a nurse all over again. You wrote her struggle to choose between the two, or even to mix those two qualities together, exceptionally well. And of course, I always admire your determination to provide as much detail as possible about any nursing situation Faith is suddenly in, and this whole 'operation' if you will on Carl's eye was splendidly written too.

And I should also mention 'the nurse without a name'. She made me think of how true is how we all meet people, in very unexpected situations and places, who turn out to be exactly what we need in this particular moment. I really loved how the two of them, with Faith, made such a great team.

It was a wonderful chapter, Alinya.
3/25/2018 c7 2Kim Blythe
Congratulations on ending another story, Alinya !

In the previous chapter, I was so happy that Faith got to be reunited with Carl !

But, in this final chapter, I was so sad and mad to know that Lily was dying of the fever, the flu, pneumonia that had been poisoning the air that they all had been breathing...
3/24/2018 c7 4OriginalMcFishie
This is so you started I never saw the link to Love, Laughter and Tenderness with Faith as a Doctor. You say you will make the next lighter but this is so wonderful I don't think we should discount this in the quest for the next 've created something awesome and should be rightly proud. You've brought Faith to life and brought out all her wonder in glorious (and sometimes horrible) colour. Thank you
3/23/2018 c7 14elizasky
I'm glad you gave us this coinciding with Christopher's birth over in Love, Laughter, and Tenderness. I had forgotten that Faith's doctor friend was Dr. Christopherson (and he wasn't in last chapter). I suppose I would have put two and two together when I went back to re-read this story eventually, but the timing here had me smacking my forehead. Similarly the lavender, banished forever from Larkrise. No wonder Faith couldn't stand it after all this.

The colors in this were beautiful and awful. "Lili wore it beautifully" was perfect. All the blues and whites and blue-whites and lavender gave this a very marked palette - I could almost see it cinematically sort of cool and dreamy and unreal, but then punctuated with the trickles and bubbles of blood a bit shocking against all the coolness. Even Dr. Christopherson's eyes are blue.

I liked particularly the bit about Faith straining muscles that she had only seen during operations. Other people would say they'd strained muscles they didn't know they had, but of course Faith knows all the muscles and has seen them, so that isn't right for her at all. It reminded me of Gilbert once not being able to say "blue in the face" because there's a word for that, you know.

After all Faith's eyeball-grasping and hand-setting, it is awful to read of her uselessness here. The most she can do is witness and dig graves and futilely wipe away blood trickles and that certainly does not make things all better. It was also painful to see Dr. Christopherson so depleted. Does he survive? Is he getting a letter announcing the birth of little Christopher Blythe?

I think I'll have to go re-read from the beginning to make sure I get everything out of this. A fabulous story, one of the best I've seen, particularly in this medium-length format. Congratulations!
3/23/2018 c7 38oz diva
I love your use of colours here, the blue of the cyanosis and the red of the blood, like a stray thread. It really brings the deadly room to life. So often our images from photos back then are in black and white and sepia, but you make those colours stand out vividly in all their awfulness

You almost manage to make death sound beautiful, creeping with a cats grace, she wore the colouration beautifully. Almost.

You made me google cyanitis and I found an excellent article by a doctor at the Uni of Melbourne, who treated 100s of cases of Spanish flu himself. have you read it?

And then what? Does she make it home in your story, or succumb herself?
I’m sad it’s over, amazing writing.
3/23/2018 c7 74kslchen
Do you know, for all the horrors of previous chapters, this might just be the worst of them? Not worst as in "bad", because it's anything but, but worst as in "most horrible". I think it's that you use language of beauty to describe awfulness that makes it so. The lavender in this is just haunting. "Lili wore it beautifully" might just have been my undoing.

It's the helplessness in this that is terrible. Up until now, Faith was more often able to *do* something. She couldn't always save them, but she was never reduced to helplessness as she is here. And for someone like Faith, there's nothing worse than being helpless. Losing those men is bad enough, but being forced to stand by uselessly as Lili dies must be almost unbearable to her. It's a testament to her strength that after this, she not only carries on, but willingly puts her life in service of trying to save others, knowing that there will always be foes she cannot defeat.

(If you allow it, I'd like to give you one fact, certainly not to critic, but just because it's one of those things I can never forget: Back then, they didn't run out of coffins, because in France, they never buried the soldiers in coffins in the first place. They wrapped them up into shrouds and put them two to a grave. No other way for those gravestones to stand so close as they do. Those men died for 'King and Country' and were denied even a coffin and a grave for themselves. It always seems so terribly disrespectful to me.)

Thank you for writing this story. The writing in this was amazing as always, maybe even more so than usual. So write so beautifully and on paper, that shouldn't work for a story as harrowing as this one, and yet, in reality, it becomes all the more haunting for it.
You've also done something amazing for Faith here. In staying so close to her, you really showed us what drives her, where she draws strength from, how she copes, what makes her falter. She really came into her own in this.
A truly amazing piece of work.
3/23/2018 c6 kslchen
I get far too invested in these stories. I kept wanting to shout at Faith to get her non-disinfected fingers away from Carl's injured eyes *right this very second*! And then I had to take a couple of deep breaths and remind myself that these are fictional characters and no one will have their eyeball rotting away from an infection unless you decree it so. It was a little better after that ;).

Faith, of course, is as focused and meticulous in her work as she always is, at least outwardly. It's clear how straining this is on her, having to care for her own brother, and it's evidently made worse by the fact that he has "Mummy's eyes". But even in light of this, she keeps it together until the job is done. She is strong when she needs to be, in this more than ever. I shudder to think what would have happened to the eye had she not come to see Carl!

But the star in this, I think, is Carl himself. Not only because he never complains and even has a grin for Faith at the end of this, but in the way he suffers through her treatment. Her fingers in his eye socket must be uncomfortable at worst and bl**dy painful at best. He had neither analgesics nor anaesthetics before she started digging around in his eyeball, and yet, there's not a peep from him. What's more, he obviously manages to keep his head still throughout. *I* would have kicked her and run for the hills! So hats off to Carl for obviously being much better about dealing with pain than I ever will be.

Oh, and can we all spare a thought for the most accepting of nurses there ever was in that war? A nurse fetching tweezers *and* tea for a VAD. Most unheard off ;).
3/23/2018 c6 4OriginalMcFishie
Oh well done. Yes this had me a bit squemish at times but I loved Faith (such a naturall nurse) loved the sibbling banter. These anecdotes never cease to bring deep satisfaction
3/22/2018 c6 14elizasky
I saw this pop up at work and was all, "I can totally read about eyes! No problem!" And then I saw it was actually Carl's eyes and decided I needed to wait til I got home to deal with this properly.

All the eyeball details are suitably VIVID, so thanks for that. I've gotten through them twice now, once for a read-through and once for writing the review, but I don't know that I can comment on the procedure itself other than to say that I am suitably impressed that Faith's hands are the steadiest of anyone ever, and I will henceforth have no difficulty imagining her doing infant heart surgery or any other dexterity task, up to and including knitting on silk pins (if she had any taste for needlecrafts).

Faith's determination is so powerful here - her repetition of "Mummy's eyes" (and the pun of mummy at the beginning and end). She's rushing around from one "battlefield" to another - did she even tell the matron at her own hospital that she was leaving or did she just run off in the middle of a letter from home? It's lovely how she wants to protect Carl and give him back some of what he's lost, reaching back even before Glen St. Mary to "Maywater blue," reminding me that the Glen was never *quite* Eden to the Merediths, was it? But you also shows what it costs her to treat the people she loves and I'm hoping that Christopher never gets so much as a splinter.

In this back-to-the-beginning, Carl is a little boy, joyous over Christmas presents, laughing even AFTER the eyeball thing, which . . . well I was going to say I've never seen him in such a giggly mood, but I have, just the once. I am glad to know that he has this register in his emotional vocabulary in this universe. You kept Carl's optimism with the talk about cameras, repurposing the attitude of "one eye is enough to watch bugs with." It hurt that he tried to protect Faith with his "it's not nice," but I was glad that he trusted her enough to let that go very soon. He was very much the little brother, believing that his big sister could do anything - order around hospital staff, appear out of nowhere, fix the eye he didn't even tell other people about. She almost takes on an ominpotent mother role to him here, and he trusts her completely.

As usual, this story is beautifully written, hard to read, but also hard to forget.
3/22/2018 c6 38oz diva
Thank you for the warning, that was indeed graphic. I don't suppose Faith should really have been undertaking that for her own brother, but obviously no one else had thought to do it. The nurse hovering around trying to help was kind of annoying (not from a writing point of view) but it was very much a one person job, though I suppose she did help in the end, holding the eyelid out of the way.

Actually now that I think of it, the nurse reminds me of me. I had to help a friend perform a caesarian on a cow in a paddock once. My job was to hold the uterus back together while my friend the vet sewed it back up. Sitting there in the wet paddock holding this slippery muscle together was certainly one of the most unusual experiences of my life.

It's pretty brave writing, you certainly don't shy away from the icky stuff. You people who are writing about this war are certainly bringing it to life for us readers. It's rather wonderful.
3/22/2018 c6 christine
that was emslightly/em crazy
(luckily I can read this sort of stuff without freaking out x) )
2/4/2018 c5 7Bathsheba Blythe
Let me start by saying that I am so sorry for reviewing this breathtaking chapter so late! There have been some changes to my working hours and this means that I am basically busy all day long, almost every day... Which doesn't help when I really want to review all the new chapters you've posted recently.

Now, what a chapter! I do love how you mix the present moment, Faith's thoughts, Faith's loved ones back home (and at the front) all together. I am in complete awe of how you manage to write it like this, in this beautiful way. May I add that you write Faith in an amazing way.

This 'case' was extremely interesting to read about. What in the world happened to this poor boy? This reminded me so much of Vera Brittain's "Testament of Youth" again! She too looked after some German soldiers and had the same feelings about it as Faith does here. I also think that she and Lili make a very effective and great team. This whole scene made me shiver and this only shows how well you wrote it!
"See him safe", isn't it the simplest yet the most difficult request one can make during a war? The ending was perfect, one still wonders what will happen to those two boys and that's how it is not only in the war but also in nurse's, doctor's, midwife's, etc. life.

Absolutely loved this chapter, Alinya.
1/26/2018 c5 8Catiegirl
I'm always in awe of the way you write Faith here- she is so alone in terms of everyone who makes up her Glen and Kingsport world, but I never see her that way- they are in her thoughts, her reasoning, and her memories- I never seem to lose that backdrop, which makes these chapters something out of the ordinary.

Faith's compassion is so well rooted in canon- and I loved it here, seeing her cradle those hands 'as if this boy were someon's Jem', that caught me right in the heart. I felt a shiver as Faith did, knowing what she would need to do- and her words, Oh, God- the only prayer left when there is nothing we can say. I loved that recognition of the boy's cry for his mother, understanding the stakes now- and that her course was set. That's the glory of that profession- that's the Hippocratic Oath right there in action. I smiled at that little touch of Coleridge here too.

I loved that the two women did everything that they could, even knowing that it would not be enough to remove the damage- that line was piercing, that it would never be the same, but it was whole. I loved that last request- to see him safe. You know, I read this story, and the main thing I feel is awe- awe of what humanity is capable of, of compassion, of going so far to support someone so different to us, and of seeing humanity in everyone. You write so beautifully of this- I know that's strange in a story like this, but it is. It's like Faith's artworks- hideousness and beauty combined- the best and the worth of us. I know that I'm rambling, but this is what Art is supposed to be- truth beautifully told.
1/24/2018 c5 74kslchen
And you claim to be squeamish about maimed hands, yes?

This was, as always, terribly beautiful (or beautifully terrible - both, probably). The way you write this, we're right there, partly at Faith's side, partly in her head. ItÄs a third person narrative and yet, when reading, it's feels like we *are* Faith, so close are we to her. There's her quiet resolve, her concentration on her work (and that connection to Jem through naming each bone), but also the little thoughts and memories of home - the Swallowgate days, her father, Jem. It's all interwoven beautifully with the actual action of treating the poor soldier, of setting his maimed hands. It should be gruesome and yet, it isn't, the way you write it. This isn't about the injury, but about the healing of it, and that's what makes it beautiful.

Lili is Faith's perfect mirror, more fragile in appearance, but no less resolved in manner. To see those two and Travers do their best to treat the wounded boy, even after realising he's 'the enemy', strictly speaking, was a glimpse of humanity in war, and one much needed. (Though, being obsessed with details, I wonder - did he get his hands on a English uniform? Otherwise, his "Feldgrau" should have given him away at first glance, no?)

I know I'm running out of words here, but you find an imperfect beauty in a perfect horror. Not only through your words and sentences, which are always so carefully formed, but through the theme of this. This isn't so much about "doing no harm", but about "doing good", I think, and that's what sets it apart.

As ever, I am looking forward to whatever else you have planned for this little gem of a story, and thank you for taking the time to write it for us.
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