Book Review, The Midnight Man

Published by Amanda Gwinnup on

Book Review

The Midnight Man by Julie Anderson, published by Hobeck Books Limited, 2024

By Amanda Gwinnup


The Midnight Man is set in Clapham, London, centered around the South London Hospital for Women and Children (SLH). It takes place in November of 1946; London is still recovering from the effects of the war, rationing is still in place, people all across London are struggling to make ends meet, and the National Health Service is about to be formed. The story surrounds two women who work at the SLH as they team up to uncover the truth after a young nurse from the hospital is found murdered. Their detective work was creatively written and the ‘whodunit’ aspect was equally compelling. The Midnight Man was a fantastic read and from a history of nursing perspective it ticked a lot of boxes.

The SLH is one of the primary locations where the story unfolds and author, Julie Anderson, did an extraordinary amount of research to bring the hospital back to life. The hospital was founded in 1912 by surgeons Maud Chadburn and Eleanor Davies-Colley and employed a nearly all female staff. During World War Two the hospital employed men who were unable to fight as many of its nurses joined the military nursing services. At the end of the war minutes from management board meetings in 1946 showed that while other hospitals all across London endured staff shortages the SLH never had that problem as female doctors, nurses, midwives and porters all wanted to work there.  The story takes readers through many of the hospitals departments and introduces the readers to doctors, nurses, porters and administrators. Anderson described the administration of a hospital during this time with exceptional detail and managed to make paper work intriguing.

There has been very little academic research into the SLH and its founders and Anderson wishes to change that. She wrote in an email to UKAHN

From its foundation in 1913 by suffragists and very tough women surgeons Marge Chadburn and Eleanor Davies-Colley, (the first woman to be admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons) through two world wars [and] up until closer, the hospital was staffed entirely by women. So tightly drawn was the founding document that an Act of Parliament was needed to allow the women to take in and treat male casualties during World War I. Its midwifery school trained midwives from across the UK, Africa and India. Yet there is no biography of either the hospital or its founders…

I was able to locate Eleanor Davies-Colley in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; however, it was a recent addition.

I can confidently recommend this book and perhaps one of UKAHNs many members could continue the work of Julie Anderson and shine some more academic light on this historically important hospital.


[Julie Anderson will be speaking in an online event through the Royal College of Nursing on the 5th of September 2024, so if you would like to learn more about the SLH please consider attending.  

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