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The daughter of Mars by Thomas Keneally

The daughter of Mars (edition 2012)

by Thomas Keneally

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Title:The daughter of Mars
Authors:Thomas Keneally
Info:North Sydney, N.S.W. : Vintage Books, 2012.
Collections:Your library

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The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally


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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 |
Daughters of Mars is Thomas Keneally’s epic story of World War I as seen through the eyes of two Australian sisters, Naomi and Sally, who are nurses that enlist. Carried first to Egypt, and then to the Dardanelles to nurse men savaged by the fighting at Gallipoli. Originally they are on the hospital ship Archimedes, but eventually the army can’t resist using the hospital ship as a means to transport troops and horses to the front and they are torpedoed and sank. The sisters survive, but then are placed on the island of Lemnos and put under the control of a colonel who doesn’t think battlefield nursing is meant for women.

The sisters originally have a rather strained relationship due to their sharing of a family secret but being constantly together and sharing the conditions and horrors of battlefield nursing draws them closer and they develop a friendship that strengthens their bond. Eventually they are moved on to France with Naomi in an English run hospital, Sally originally in an Australian and then transferred to a casualty clearing station. The author covers the Durance sisters war experience from 1914 to 1918 in great detail, but even at it’s most intense, there was a detachment or a distance between the reader and the events being portrayed that kept me from being totally swept away by this story.

Overall, as one would expect, this is a grim but powerful book. The author doesn’t hold back in his descriptions of the horror of untreatable wounds, the lack of medical equipment, the unflinching assembly line treatment that many soldiers received. But this is also the story of two women, their longing for new horizons, their lack of preparation for the butchery that they had to deal with, their relationship with each other and with the people that they meet along the way.

The Daughters of Mars is both a sweeping epic and a smaller more intimate revealing of these two woman’s lives. This was an excellent read, but a couple of quibbles kept it from getting five stars, one was the distance from the story that I felt during the reading, and the second is the divided ending of which I wasn’t a fan. However, seeing the war from this mostly medical viewpoint really brought home to me the ultimate cost in terms of human lives forever damaged and lost. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Jan 18, 2015 |
This year marks the centennial of the start of WWI -- a global collapse into brutality as horrific as Mars, the ancient Roman god of war, could have possibly devised. We have often been treated in novels and non-fiction to the male perspective. For Australian soldiers like those in this narrative), their participation has rightly been viewed as heroic. Thomas Keneally has chosen instead to portray this conflict from the view of Australian volunteer nurses, particularly the two Durance sisters, Sally and Naomi. Through them, we are dropped into Gallipoli, Lemnos, the sinking of the Archimedes and the Western Front.

This is a gripping tale which kept me rapt from first to last. The tensions between the sisters, their sense of alienation from their home and family, mirror in some respects the tensions between the warring nations. Keneally's choice of dialogue sans quotation marks has distressed some. It wasn't an issue for me -- the pace continued to race along. I found the choice of alternate endings to be more offputting. It does have the fortunate result of giving something for everyone. I intend to search out more books from this author. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Sep 2, 2014 |
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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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"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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