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Come With Me
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Come with Me
By Joan Fisher as told to Pam Bayfield

Speaking to her class, writing teacher Robyn McWilliam quietly boasted about her most prodigious student. 'She has just launched her seventh book!' she gushed, making no effort to conceal her pride or her incredulity. Of course, she was referring to Sydney Northern Beaches author Pam Bayfield. If you are her fan, you'd know that that was no idle boast : Pam Bayfield is simply prolific.

Pam Bayfield's latest book, Come with Me, is in the genre of a memoir - that of war-time nurse, Joan Fisher, a VA (Voluntary Assistant) who worked on a hospital ship and other AGHs (Australian General Hospitals) in WWll. It is a short novel, written in typical unpretentious conversational Bayfield style, and full of appealing anecdotes of life at home, in service, and at play. It is thoroughly engaging.

Joan Fisher's story covers her fifty-two months of service on the high seas aboard the Oranje and in various land- based hospitals. But the story offers much more than caring for wounded personnel of the three armed forces - it also reveals her enchanting life before and after the war.

For those who can remember the hardships of the Depression years or the uncertainties of the war years or the gloriously infectious years of the 1950s, Come with Me is a must-read because it is a journey of nostalgia that will cause readers to cry unashamedly, to laugh uncontrollably, and to be willingly lured into a state of surreal wonderment. Do you doubt me?

OK, then let's see if you can wrap your head around these extracts. Joan Fisher lived her youth in a time when transport by horse and buggy was the norm, electricity was a novelty, your parents' word was irrefutable authority, hormone-charged teenagers somehow survived without any "hanky panky", and when a boy and a girl became fond of each other they allowed themselves the unfettered liberty of gazing into each other's eyes! And that's not all! Joan married her man after having seen him only six times without first having experienced the prelude to an embrace or engaging in an obligatory experiment into the juxtaposition of hungry lips! Are you titillated yet? Wait till you find out how she fought off the wandering hands of a high-ranking Dutch officer!

Joan Fisher's devotion to friends and family (except for her tyrannical step-mother) is a lesson in loyalty and faithfulness. If you were limited to having just one friend, you couldn't do better than having Joan Fisher. All her relationships are life-long and end only if you don't outlive her. Even then, she preserves the sacredness of the memory. I guess this is why her life is one of unbounded happiness and simple contentment because she loves unconditionally as she is loved uncritically.

Another aspect of Joan Fisher's inspirational life is her fiercely uncompromising attitude. Throughout the book she humbly confesses her feeling of honor and privilege she attached to the giving of service and her need to forgive the Japanese for their atrocities. Who could remain unshaken by her humanity and her compassion? Of her work, she said, 'My proudest moments were nursing the sick and injured … encouraging and cheering the mentally-affected … as well as holding the hand of someone who was dying.' When she saw a Catholic priest bless a young captured Japanese soldier, she said, 'It makes one realize how stupid the human race is : we are taught to hate when Jesus came to teach love. This is what Christianity is to me. I had tears in my eyes as I witnessed the scene before me.' Is Joan Fisher a kindred spirit of Mother Theresa's? I know the answer. Do you?

Come with Me makes me yearn for the times of Joan Fisher but, alas, it's an age of altruism and innocence that has passed. Want to feel good? I recommend you give yourself a full dose of Come with Me. It is available as a paperback from The Next Chapter Books, Warriewood, or Dymocks, Warringah Mall Brookvale, or Pam's web site.