For sheer bloody determination you can't beat Mary Sutter's resolute ambition to become a surgeon, amongst the battlefields of the American Civil War. Through intense hardship and total scepticism she strives against the odds, and at each pitfall she has my complete admiration. This is a story rich in period detail which evokes the desperately wretched atmosphere of the time. But I was still left wondering about the futility of all wars.
The other two attempts to sever legs had been a disaster. In the first, the chloroform had worn off mid-surgery. The boy had flailed, ended up on the floor. Mary's hold on his artery gone, he had watched himself die, uncomprehending and stuporous. The second - she would not think of the second. She could not. A whole success, easier than the two others. Bone cut. Ties holding. Skin flapped. They'd been congratulating one another, she and Dr Stipp. And then they had turned, only to discover that the boy was dead.