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Genevieve Graham's latest novel Bluebird is a Prohibition-era love story — read an excerpt now

Bluebird is the latest novel from bestselling historical fiction author Genevieve Graham.

Bluebird will be available on Apr. 5, 2022

Bluebird is an historical fiction novel by Genevieve Graham. (Simon & Schuster, Nicola Davison)

Bluebird is the next book by bestselling historical fiction writer Genevieve Graham.

Bluebird takes place during the First World War and tells the story of a young nurse named Adele who forms a strong bond with a wounded soldier under her care named Jeremiah. Jeremiah returns to the front — but when the war is over the two cross paths in their hometown of Windsor, Ont., and see it as a second chance. But Prohibition has brought new danger to the city that threatens to tear them apart.

Graham is a writer from Nova Scotia who has written several novels that highlight Canadian history. Her other books include At the Mountain's Edge, Letters Across the SeaCome From Away and The Forgotten Home Child.

Bluebird will be available on April 5, 2022.

You can read an excerpt from Bluebird below.


June 1918 

No. 1 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, near Adinkerke, Belgium

Adele focused on her numb fingertips clamped around the metal surgical bowl and silently demanded they stop shaking. 

"Lieutenant?"

Adele held out the bowl. "I'm sorry, Doctor." 

Tink. A tiny sound of victory as a metal fragment dropped in. Adele steeled herself, determined to remain still as stone. Dr. Bertrand's use of her rank had that kind of effect. She'd never felt entirely deserving of the official title, but all Canadian nurses had been given the same one upon enlisting. 'Lieutenant Savard' gave Adele a perceived position of authority, which came in handy around some of the soldiers she tended. 

A boom sounded in the distance. Living so close to the French border, less than an hour from the busy port of Dunkirk, she was no stranger to the thunder of the big guns. ​​​​​​

Adele had never assisted with a trepanning before, an ancient procedure where a hole was cut into a patient's skull to relieve pressure and gain access to any foreign matter lodged within. What was throwing her off wasn't the sight of the poor man's exposed brain or blood. That rarely bothered Adele anymore. It was the exhaustion that rattled through her bones like a train. She'd been on her feet for sixteen hours today, eighteen yesterday. In between, she'd curled up in the nurses' tent, grabbing a few hours of sleep. 

A boom sounded in the distance. Living so close to the French border, less than an hour from the busy port of Dunkirk, she was no stranger to the thunder of the big guns. 

Three years ago, Adele had arrived overseas and been assigned to the No. 1 Canadian Clearance Centre as a Nursing Sister, or 'Bluebird' as they'd been nicknamed because of the colour of their gowns. The nurses, in the dual capacities of medical workers and compassionate women, were the first to greet injured men arriving from the front lines, tending their wounds, dispensing medicine, delivering tetanus shots, or simply listening. 

Dr. Bertrand located the last piece of shrapnel, and Adele lowered her aching arms. "Will he make it?" 

"Time will tell. These types of surgeries are intricate. Even if he survives, we hope nothing critical was injured in the brain. Keep a close eye on him."

Adele cleaned up the operating room and untied her apron, depositing it in the laundry bin along with so many other pieces of bloody cloth. Then she stepped into the main hospital tent. 

"Excuse me, Sister?" 

The soldier was tall and dark-haired, and the fibres of his shirt were stiff with dried mud and blood. She could see no obvious wounds.

"Are you injured, Corporal…?"

"Bailey. John Bailey. No, Sister. It's not me." He pointed at a man in a cot. "See the fella at the end? He's my brother. Please help him."

She'd heard that before. He's my brother. He's my friend

Adele went for a new pair of gloves, a bucket of water, and a clean cloth from the trolley, then she picked up the chart at the end of the soldier's bed. Corporal Jeremiah Bailey, 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company, she read. Facial lacerations. These men were tunnellers. Members of the courageous breed who dug beneath the trenches, blocking and bombing the Germans. She'd never seen a tunneller before. Not a live one, anyway. 

"Jerry?" John said softly.

Jeremiah's eyes flitted open. "I'm okay." 

But it was so hard to think of the men like that. To give them names and homes and families. It made it so much more difficult to say goodbye.

The words rode on an exhalation, squeezed through motionless lips. Adele felt a twinge of shame, listening in on such an intimate offering between the brothers. She focused on Jeremiah's injuries, tentatively pressing against the bandage on the right side of his face, feeling for the definition of bone. She'd seen jaws blown off. The first and second times, the shock of that terrible wound had sent her behind the tent, retching. She was more prepared now, but always nervous. To her relief, his jaw felt whole. 

"Corporal Bailey, I'm going to remove your bandages and clean you up for the doctor. I'll be careful," she promised, loosening the gauze with a syringe of warm water. 

"Jerry. Call him Jerry, would you? He's Jerry. I'm John. We're the Bailey brothers."

"Of course." But it was so hard to think of the men like that. To give them names and homes and families. It made it so much more difficult to say goodbye. 

The bandages on Jerry's cheek and temple were suffused with blood. When she peeled back the gauze, she realized two sharp metal edges had sliced through Jerry's bristled cheek. One had carved a straight, horizontal line from beneath his ear through his cheek. She could see the bloodied white of his teeth. Miraculously, the damage stopped beneath his nose, on his lip. The second cut ran from almost the same spot under his ear, passing terrifyingly close beneath his right eye and across the bridge of his nose. 

"How did this happen?" she asked. "It looks like shrapnel. Weren't you underground?"

"Germans broke through, set off a camouflet."

"Germans were in your tunnel?" 

"They dig their own. Sometimes our paths cross. Sometimes it works in our favour. Not this time."

"Aren't those tunnels quite narrow?"

"Yes, ma'am. About three or four feet wide, maybe five feet floor to ceiling. The hard part is knowing in the dark who you're standing beside. You don't want to kill the wrong man."

"How can you tell?"

"Germans have epaulettes on their uniforms. We don't. We feel for them while we fight." 

Adele stopped, speechless. In her mind she pictured the men in the murky blackness underground, fumbling for that extra bit of fabric on the shoulders of the enemy's coats. 

"I didn't find out until after we killed the Germans that Jerry'd been hit by the blast," John went on. "He'd been thrown back, but the shrapnel caught him. He was buried when I got to him."

"Thank God you found him," she whispered. 

Considering the extreme damage, the pain resulting from her tender touch should have been practically unbearable, and yet Jerry hadn't flinched. She hoped there wasn't nerve damage. 

It's okay, Jerry," Adele said when John had left. "You're safe. I'll take care of you.

"The doctor will be by to stitch you up. He's very good, but you will have a scar, I'm afraid."

"Too bad, Jerry. Like I've always said, you'll never be as handsome as me."

"Some ladies like scars," Adele teased. 

John's low-throated laugh filled the room. Jerry closed his eyes, and she thought maybe he was smiling inside. 

"I gotta get back," John said. Jerry stiffened. "Don't worry, I'll be careful." 

Adele saw the pull between them as if it were a rope drawn tight. John clearly wanted to embrace his brother but settled for a light pat on the shoulder, then Jerry lifted a hand and his brother clasped it for a long moment before he turned to go.

"It's okay, Jerry," Adele said when John had left. "You're safe. I'll take care of you."


Excerpted from Bluebird by Genevieve Graham ©2021. Published by Simon & Schuster. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved. 

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