The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker Author, Joanna Nell Ran Away to Sea… and then Wrote About it

The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker Author, Joanna Nell Ran Away to Sea… and then Wrote About it

About the author:

Joanna Nell was born in the UK and studied medicine at Cambridge and Oxford universities. Her short fiction has won multiple awards and has been published in various journals and literary anthologies. A former ship’s doctor and now a GP with a passion for women’s health and care of the elderly, Joanna is drawn to writing character-driven stories for women in their prime, creating young-at-heart characters who are not afraid to break the rules and defy society’s expectations of ageing. Her first novel, THE SINGLE LADIES OF JACARANDA RETIREMENT VILLAGE, was a national bestseller. Joanna lives on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with her husband and two teenage children.

Buy a copy of The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker here. // Read a review of The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker here.

Words by Joanna Nell

Back in my late twenties, after several gruelling years as a junior doctor and with a failed relationship under my belt, I ran away to sea. I had no idea what to expect but to be honest, I saw working as a ship’s doctor as a bit of a holiday.

The ship – comparatively small by modern standards – seemed enormous to me when I boarded in Singapore. With 2000 crew and passengers on board, she was the size of a small town. As the assistant doctor, or ‘Baby Doc’, I was responsible for the crew while the senior doctor cared for the paying passengers. After hours, the ‘Baby Doc’ was on call for the entire ship. In addition to the two doctors, there were five nursing staff and a fully equipped hospital complete with x-ray machine, blood analyser and a mortuary that doubled as a champagne locker.

Finding my way around the labyrinth of the ship was my first challenge, followed by working out which of three different uniforms I was supposed to wear. On formal evenings, the female officers wore long skirts, white silky blouses and a floppy black tie affectionately known as a ‘dead bat’. This wasn’t the most practical of attire as I discovered whilst resuscitating a passenger on the floor of the crowded dining room.

It’s fair to say we worked hard and played hard. The medics were a small team but after working 24hrs a day side by side we became close. Some of those friendships have lasted a lifetime.

The work was varied and challenging. The ship’s hospital was essentially a floating emergency department, albeit one without a surgeon, ICU or access to second opinions. Ships’ doctors need to be resourceful, dealing with everything from seasickness to broken bones, heart attacks and trauma. Sometimes days away from land, we had to treat whatever presented. On one occasion, I drew blood from the bellboy and after screening, transfused it straight into a haemorrhaging passenger.

Officers were allowed to use passenger facilities such as the gym, restaurants and spa however, and on my days off, I often volunteered to escort shore tours. Landing by helicopter on an Alaskan glacier, scuba diving in the Caribbean or riding horses through the Costa Rican rain forest certainly beat the ward rounds and outpatient clinics of the past.

Within two years, I’d seen most of the world and was having the time of my life. But there was one more surprise to come. Like the young single Evelyn, I fell for a man in uniform. And like my protagonist, I married my handsome officer, marking the end of my sea days and the beginning a whole new adventure ashore.

 

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        Publisher details

        The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker
        Author
        Joanna Nell
        Genre
        Australian Fiction
        Released
        24 September, 2019

        Synopsis

        Joanna Nell's follow-up to the bestselling The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village is a poignant ode to love and the memories that make a well-lived lifeAs the wife of retired ship's doctor Dr Henry Parker, Evelyn is living out her twilight years aboard the Golden Sunset. Every night she dresses for dinner - gown, tiara, runners - and regales her fellow passengers with stories of a glamorous life travelling the world in luxury as well as showing off her superior knowledge of everything from ships' customs to biographical details of her heroine, Florence Nightingale. The crew treat her with deference. And forbearance.But when Henry goes missing, Evelyn sets off to search every part of the grand ocean liner to find him, casino, nightclub and off-limits areas included. Misadventures are had, new friends are made, scandalous behaviour noted - all news to Evelyn. If only she could remember the events of the night before as clearly as she can recall the first time she met Henry on a passage from England to Australia in 1953 and fell in love, abandoning her dreams to become a midwife to be a wife instead - and the long-ago painful events that left Evelyn all at sea.Why is it so hard to remember some things and so hard to forget others? And where is Henry? The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker is a love letter to the memories we make over the course of a lifetime, and how the heart remembers what matters, even when the mind has long forgotten.
        Joanna Nell
        About the author

        Joanna Nell

        Joanna Nell was born in the UK and studied medicine at Cambridge and Oxford universities. Her short fiction has won multiple awards and has been published in various journals and literary anthologies. A former ship's doctor and now a GP with a passion for women's health and care of the elderly, Joanna is drawn to writing character-driven stories for women in their prime, creating young-at-heart characters who are not afraid to break the rules and defy society's expectations of ageing. Her first novel, THE SINGLE LADIES OF JACARANDA RETIREMENT VILLAGE, was a national bestseller. Joanna lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches with her husband and two teenage children.

        Books by Joanna Nell

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