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The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally

The Daughters of Mars

by Thomas Keneally

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5162828,484 (4.02)187

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A moving story of the trials and tribulations, the hardships and conditions Australian nurses Sally and Naomi faced along with their colleagues from 1914 to 1918. The oppressive heat of Egypt and the bleak coldness of France, the makeshift environments in the clearing stations and hospitals, the lack of modern equipment, and the horrendous injuries presented to them all make for an amazingly gripping story. Coupled with the loves and the losses, the friendships, the narrative of their experiences living on the other side of the world are all well crafted by the author. ( )
  Carole46 | Jul 28, 2018 |
I couldn't finish this book. Not to my taste. The premise was interesting but the execution not so much. ( )
  Thebrownbookloft | Jun 29, 2018 |
This is a moving, informative read about the brave women and men in the medical corps during the first World War. Australian rural sisters and nurses, Naomi and Sally Durance, volunteer at the outbreak of the war. We follow them through Egypt, on sinking ships and into France for the duration of the war. The ending is cleverly open and links back to the opening paragraph. The story is presented sequentially a refreshing change from so many books. ( )
  HelenBaker | Jan 21, 2017 |
I enjoyed the story line and the relationship between the sisters and some of their fellow nurses but truly, parts could have been condensed to make it about 100-150 page shorter. It just felt a little repetitive and drawn out at times. And of course, the part most irritating for me - no quotation marks. I know this doesn't bother some people but it requires me to occationally re-read a sentence/paragraph to determine if what I just read was spoken out loud, a thought, or a descirption. That disrupts the flow of the story. Overall, I give it three stars though. ( )
  lynnski723 | Dec 31, 2016 |
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 |
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To the two nurses,
Judith and Jane
First words
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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Haiku summary
Two Australian
sisters live through the horrors
of the First World War.

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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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