An American physician's life is irrevocably bisected by World War I. Before volunteering for medical duty in the war, Dr. William Lloyd's existence was structured, safe, and even obedient. After his experience supervising a hospital in France, his life becomes uninhibited, tumultuous, and eventually dangerous.

After the war ends and he returns home, Dr. Lloyd soon divorces his wife and leaves his family. He returns to Europe with the sole purpose of being reunited with Jeanne Prie, a bewitching and extraordinary nurse he worked with in France. She is also a dedicated microbiologist and possesses some of the characteristics of Joan of Arc. Dr. Lloyd has become infatuated with her. Ironically, he dies a victim of scientific research after inoculating himself with an experimental serum that he hoped might be a successful vaccine.


Told in part through letters sent home by Dr. Lloyd, this novel depicts the destructive force of war not only on soldiers but also youth, civilians, families, and nations. Interestingly, germs are portrayed as a greater threat than bullets. Infection (in the form of greed, pride, and foolishness) lurks everywhere. Obsession figures prominently in this novel. Love (of individuals, family, country, profession, and science) is at times in conflict with duty, loyalty, and moral standards.

Healers themselves sometimes suffer. Medicine and science seem vulnerable to human emotion and occasionally overwhelmed by it. The story raises important questions about the ethics of human research and the personal cost of discovery. The author acknowledges his debt to both Paul de Kruif's book, Microbe Hunters, and to a study of the character of Joan of Arc.



Place Published

New York



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