Reviews for Daughters of Mars


Booklist Reviews 2013 April #2
Sally and Naomi Dorrance, grown sisters, aren't particularly close. Personality ­differences nudge them apart. Sally has stayed home on the family's farm in New South Wales and practices nursing close to home, while Naomi has fled to Sydney to nurse in wider, deeper waters. When their mother is verging on death, Naomi returns home, and the sisters perform an act that binds them in a peculiar way, as they now have to carry a guilty secret between them. Their world is opened drastically as they volunteer as nurses during WWI and are loaded onto a hospital ship treating Australian soldiers who have been wounded in the disastrous Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey. Their ship is torpedoed off the Greek islands, and the sisters' survival of a sinking ship is perhaps the most compelling--and longest--scene in this lengthy novel, the latest from the author of many distinguished historical novels, including Schindler's List (1982). The sisters end up nursing on the western front, and, in the end, it is their nursing experiences, their having to face countless horrors of loss of life and limb, that become the true meaning of their sisterly bond. Greatly detailed, alternately fast moving and slow, this story boasts authentic characters set in equally authentic locations. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Active advertising and scheduling of the author for interviews make up a portion of the publisher's large publicity campaign for this book. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 September
Sisters find truth and horror in the Great War

If Thomas Keneally’s expansive and brilliant novel The Daughters of Mars doesn’t remind you of an Australian version of “Downton Abbey,” I don’t know what would. This isn’t to disparage either work—especially not one from the author of Schindler’s List—but the similarities jump out from the opening pages. We have two sisters who don’t get along. We get the soldier with half his face blown off; the manor house converted into a hospital; the Spanish flu sweeping off otherwise young and healthy people; the upstanding bloke thrown in jail for no good reason and the faithful woman who’s willing to do whatever it takes to get him out; the deaths of loved characters that make you gasp for their sheer unfairness.

In The Daughters of Mars, the Durance sisters—chilly Naomi and somewhat more biddable Sally—sign on as army nurses at the beginning of World War I. We follow them on the long boat trip from Australia to the Mediterranean, where they nurse the soldiers coming in from the disaster at Gallipoli and endure the torpedoing of their hospital ship, the Archimedes. The sinking, depicted with hair-raising vividness by Keneally, will impact the sisters, their friends and lovers for the remainder of the war. For one thing, Naomi and Sally (who, it should be said, are not the daughters of an earl but of a dairy farmer from the Australian bush) finally begin to deal with a sad secret they thought they’d left behind in Australia.

Given the devastating nature of what was then known as the “war to end all wars,” Keneally’s touch is surprisingly nimble. He gives us only glimpses of the horror, but that’s sometimes enough. What he’s interested in are the ways the war affects the lif[Wed Jul 23 12:15:26 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. e choices of those who are caught up in it, and how ordinary folks rarely know they’re living through—or even making—history. The Daughters of Mars is a masterpiece that is sure to rank among Keneally’s best works.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 March #2
Australian novelist Keneally (Schindler's List, 1982, etc.) turns to his native country in a time of war. Anticipating the centennial of World War I by a shade, Keneally constructs a Winds of War–like epic concerning figures whom only Ernest Hemingway, among the first-tier writers, got to: military nurses. Naomi and Sally Durance are two sisters who join the Nursing Corps in 1915 and sail off to Gallipoli, where they witness terrible things and form bonds of attachment with the wounded soldiers who suffer them; no one with a sensitive stomach will want to read Keneally's descriptions of their wounds. Crossing the Mediterranean, they experience the further terror of being torpedoed. Keneally's set piece, which takes up nearly a tenth of this long but economical book, is extraordinarily moving, if often quite gruesome ("Within the ambit of Lemnos floated a boat with four putrefying dead soldiers and three dead nurses in it"). Since Keneally has established soldiers and nurses alike as characters, the reader experiences their loss. Only on arriving at the Western Front do the sisters part, and there they discover "a dimension of barbarity that had not existed on Gallipoli and had been undreamed of in Archimedes," namely the terror of gas warfare. There, too, each falls in love, which, this being a war story, cannot end well for the both; it is only the love-story element that does not entirely work in Keneally's book, though it seems inevitable. For all that, Keneally is a master of character development and period detail, and there are no false notes there. Fans of Downton Abbey and Gallipoli alike will find much to admire in Keneally's fast-moving, flawlessly written pages. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 February #1

Trust the Booker Prize-winning author of Schindler's List to come up with another moving historical tale. During World War I, sisters Naomi and Sally Durance leave Australia to serve as nurses, first at Gallipoli and then on the western front, where their training hardly prepares them for the carnage they witness. In a French hospital, they both have the chance at love they never thought they'd take. Great international reviews; the Telegraph (UK) says this "might even be the best" from Keneally.

[Page 50]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 June #2

In this latest from Booker Prize-winning author Keneally (Schindler's List), Australian sisters Naomi and Sally Durance volunteer as nurses at the beginning of World War I. Initially posted to a medical ship off the coast of Greece, they survive a shipwreck and are eventually transferred to the European front in France, Sally to a clearing station and Naomi to a hospital established by an eccentric viscountess. Though the sisters' viewpoints are seemingly limited, their service is a testament to the scope of war, as the number and nature of casualties they treat range from shrapnel and bayonet wounds to gassing, trench foot, shell shock, and finally the Spanish flu. Along the way we meet an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, including the resolute Matron Mitchie, returning to the front with a prosthetic leg, and Quaker Ian Kiernan, who volunteers for medical service but refuses a transfer to combat. VERDICT Keneally must have done copious research, but historical details and information about wartime medical treatment are presented organically, without the weight of historical retrospection. His ambiguous ending helps the reader bear the unbearable. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/13.]--Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis

[Page 82]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
Following the death of their mother, Australian sisters Naomi and Sally Durance volunteer as nurses during World War I. It isn't often that war is presented through the eyes of those who care for the wounded and dying. Breathtaking, magnificent, and authentic; from the author of Schindler's List. (LJ 6/15/13) (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 July #1

The horrific butcher's bill of WWI trench fighting, which took a toll not only on the wounded soldiers but on the doctors and nurses who tended to them, is at the heart of this moving epic novel from the author of Schindler's List. The story is told through the experiences of two sisters, Sally and Naomi Durance, both nurses, who enter the morally complex area of treating the devastatingly injured with peacetime experience. Eight months before the call went out from the Australian government for military nurses, Naomi apparently used some extra morphine that Sally had procured to end their mother's suffering from inoperable cervical cancer. The euthanasia both drew the siblings together in a conspiracy of silence and created a barrier between them. Their duties take them to Egypt and Europe, as they struggle to stay alive, and to stay mentally composed despite the awful situations they must confront. By again using individuals to humanize a larger story, Keneally succeeds in conveying the experience to his readers in a manageable way. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Aug. 10)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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