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The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally
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The Daughters of Mars (edition 2012)

by Thomas Keneally

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4542622,953 (4.02)175
Member:Suzannie1
Title:The Daughters of Mars
Authors:Thomas Keneally
Info:Sceptre (2012), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally

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Australia, 1915: the sisters Naomi and Sally Durance volunteer to serve as nurses in the First World War; from Alexandria, Egypt, they are first shipped to Gallipoli, and later serve near the front line in France.

As short as the synopsis is, the novel with its 500+ pages subjects the reader to the whole gamut of emotions, and I felt an immense solidarity with those two brave and spirited women, maybe not least because I used to work as a nurse myself – though of course in rather less harrowing circumstances. Naomi and Sally are complex figures, and I warmed to them the more the novel progressed as they, by their own admission, used to come across as 'aloof' before the war changed them. Supporting characters are also well drawn and I became invested in all of their fates, shedding the odd tear here and there when someone or other didn't make it to the end of the novel. What impressed me most about the book were the numerous depictions of individual acts of true heroism away from the front line – front line action doesn't feature at all except for reports by the soldiers – that to me were incredibly moving; these are the unsung heroes of the war.

As well as portraying the horrors of war in quite graphic and often terrifying detail, but often beautiful prose, the novel also depicts how as a result of the fighting gender and class divisions were loosened if not completely broken down at times in those involved in caring for the soldiers, allowing women in particular a certain freedom of speech and action they didn't otherwise possess. In addition, the book holds up a magnifying glass to society and examines issues of politics such as the question of conscription and the women's suffrage movement that was entirely unexpected but received with interest and gratitude. The reason it doesn't quite get the full five stars is that I felt the pace was dropped a little too much in places after the tension-filled action sequences; others may argue that this is just what is needed to balance the two.

In short, the novel shows the best and worst humanity is capable of and it will stay with you for a long time once the last page has been turned; as such it is a book to be savoured, treasured and re-read. ( )
  passion4reading | Oct 7, 2016 |
An extraordinary story of Australian sisters serving as nurses during World War I, and the ways that the war transformed a relationship that was cordial but distant into a loving embrace of family and sisterhood. It is filled with warmth and heartbreak, and finely drawn characters who assert themselves in the reader's imagination with quiet authority. The horrors of war never lessen no matter how many books I read about it, and Keneally's setting the novel at various removes from the front does nothing to blunt the impact. The ending is heartbreakingly satisfying, and it will stay with me for a very long time. ( )
  rosalita | May 21, 2016 |
Australian sisters, Naomi and Sally Durance volunteer as nurses at the beginning of World War I.
They will work as nurses in places ranging from Gallipoli to the Western Front.

I found Keneally's account of WWI battlefield medicine fascinating.
We see, through 2 obscure heroines, both the horrors and the miracles of war.
The agony of the wounded is balanced by cases of healing to the body, mind and spirit.
Futility is balanced by love.

It was noted that the author was inspired by " actual wartime diaries, historical hospitals, and real hospital ships"

I do caution that there is a fierce explicitness to descriptions of "gaping fissures in once healthy bodies."

Keneally leaves no stone of authenticity unturned.
The reader is left with a deeper understanding of the personal cost paid by the WWI soldier.

In doing MP3 audio, I may have missed the author's reference to the title (Daughters Of Mars)
My interpretation led me to Mars...the Roman mythological god of war. ( )
  pennsylady | Feb 5, 2016 |
Interesting novel, and absorbing enough, but I couldn't really see anything special about it. ( )
  cazfrancis | Feb 27, 2015 |
I've done quite a bit of reading set in the World War I timeframe, but never had one set in the Dardanelles, nor did any of them feature Australian nurses. This one has been rightly described as epic. It is the story of sisters forming a mature adult relationship, it is the story of the horrors of war, the advances of battlefield medicine, and the heroism of women who left home to serve in far off lands.
About half-way through my read I was able to borrow a copy of the audio format and it was absolutely splendid. The print book has an excellent map inside the cover which made the reading even more enjoyable. Definitely a keeper and one to re-read and loan to friends. ( )
  tututhefirst | Feb 26, 2015 |
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To the two nurses,
Judith and Jane
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It was said around the valley that the two Durance girls went off but just the one bothered to come back.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Two Australian
sisters live through the horrors
of the First World War.
(passion4reading)

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"From the beloved author of Schindler's List, a magnificent, epic novel of two sisters, both nurses during World War I, that has been hailed as perhaps "the best novel of Keneally's career" (The Spectator)"--

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