The Daughters of Mars: A Novel – Thomas Keneally

Daughters of MarsThe Durance sisters were so much alike. They were beautiful, tall and graceful girls. Both were registered nurses. Naomi moved to Sidney and was a nurse at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Sally was the one who stayed on the farm with the family, the one who worked at the Macleay District Hospital, the one who nursed her ill Mother. But Naomi was the one the family boasted of, the one of whom they were so very proud. By the time the call came for military nurses in 1915, Mrs. Durance had died and Sally felt that this was her chance to leave, so over the objections of Naomi, Sally joined her sister in the Australian Army Nursing Service. They were on a hospital ship bound for the Dardanelles, and they soon found that their time spent nursing in civilian hospitals did nothing to prepare them for the what they faced after the battles near Gallipoli.

Based on the diaries of Australian nurses, this wonderful, sweeping novel never takes us into battle, but the grim aftermath of those battles does more to underscore the horrors of war than the sound of guns. The book is carefully researched and the style of the writing is consistent with the period. It is not as if I’m reading about an event that happened almost a century ago, it’s happening now. I was quickly immersed in the grim and grinding work of attending to impossible wounds. But it is more than a war story; it is a story about relationships between the sisters, between the nurses, and between the nurses and the soldiers. It’s about their everyday lives and loves, and about doing the impossible and thinking nothing of it. Highly recommended.

eGalley review Publication date 8.20.13

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