Marjorie H. (Woodstock, GA)
Every now and then a book comes along that is extraordinary and "Daughters of Mars" is in that category for me.
The book begins with two Australian sisters who sign on to serve halfway around the world in the medical units of WWI. They are the center of the circle that is ever widening as the story unfolds. They are marvelous characters who share a family secret, a dislike for one another and also the abiding love that two women share as occupiers of the same womb.
The graphic descriptions of wounded soldiers - both physically and mentally may be hard for some to read. However, Kenneally's gift of prose is a 'come hither' invitation. You cannot put it down. The backdrop of the war brings all into focus. The war is a character in the book bringing sick, wounded and dying to suffer their horrors. The realism Kenneally brings to every circumstance puts the reader right in the middle. Each character is carefully drawn - rich and real.
Some may find the ending not to their liking. I haven't decided whether I liked the ending - may have to re-read.
Don't miss it!!
Charles T. (Asheville, NC)
A different view of the First World War
Thomas Keneally has written an epic novel of the First World War and made it unique by telling the story from the viewpoint of Australian nurses and soldiers instead of the traditional viewpoint of the French and the English and the Americans. The Australian insistence on non conscription forces and volunteers, gives that country a place in the horrible fighting that sets them apart and supports the indefatigable efforts of the country's nurses and soldiers. The book is magnificent in it's characters, plot and language.
The author uses dialogue with no punctuation so it is completely unobtrusive and effective in moving the action and at the same time adds dimension to the characters.
The plot revolves around the Durrance sisters and their nursing work close to the front lines that tells the story of the brutality of the fighting better than blow-by-blow descriptions of the actual combat.
One of the main points of the book is the age old question of the morality of pacifists who participate in war. A primary character is a Quaker (Friends) who is found guilty of treason because of his refusal to be transferred from a medical support unit to a weapon carrying unit.
I'm not sure what the author is trying to do by confusing the reader with two endings but It didn't do justice to the bulk of the book.
Amy F. (West Roxbury, MA)
The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally
I so wanted to love this book. Schlindler's List by this author is one of my favorite books of all time. This book just did not do it for me. I found the topic interesting and loved that the story focused on the lives of two nurses, but the epic events described in the book that should have pulled me in just did not pull me in at all. I thought that the author had the historical timeframe portrayed perfectly, but the writing just did not make me happy, sad, angry, etc. The book was so descriptive and long that I think it took away from my ability to feel the emotion of the story. I also did not like the uncertainty of the ending. After 500 pages there should at least be clarity of which sister lives and which sister dies. Unfortunately this book was a big disappointment for me, especially given my previous experience with this author.
Jan M. (Broken Arrow, OK)
Hard to Read
I'm sorry to rate this book poor, for it was a wonderful book, but it was hard to read. The sentences go on forever. I realize the purpose was to imitate private journals, but in doing so, it made reading difficult. I found myself re-reading passages in an attempt to understand what the author was saying, and the need to do that took away from the pleasure of the book. Now that said, the story was tremendous. It brought the horrors of the war into my living room. One could almost feel the pain and terror of the casualties. A story well-told, but in dire need of some structural editing.
Lee M. (Creve Coeur, MO)
World War 1
From Australia to Tripoli, and then to the Western Front in World War I this book follows two nurses, that also happen to be sisters. Thomas Keneally writes very graphically about the atrocities committed in the name of war and makes an excellent case, perhaps unintentionally, for pacifism. He writes so emotionally about Naomi and Sally Durance that it blurs the fact that it is a man writing about women's thoughts and emotions. I found this book extremely enjoyable. Caution, the factual descriptions are quite explicit. Keneally sneaks in a little twist at the end.
Joanne V. (Towanda, PA)
World War I from a different perspective
I really enjoyed this book because of the author's character development - I really cared about all the characters especially the nurses and what they endured during WWI. I had no problem with the author's writing style and rather liked it. I was somewhat confused by the ending, but on the whole, it was a very satisfying read. I would recommend it to my book club since there is considerable material for discussion. My only negative is that it is a bit too long and could be cut a bit - it may be daunting for some readers.
Judith B. (Retired Reader, NE)
Tedious but Somewhat Worth the Effort
My problem with this book is that I couldn't determine what it wanted to be: the story of two sisters and their difficult relationship, an insight into nursing conditions in WWI, or a summary of Australia's contributions in the war. The book would benefit from the use of quotation marks to designate conversations and chapters marked with dates and the character involved. Much of the time I couldn't determine which sister was in the action. And the ending is a real cop out. After patiently reading 500 pages, I'm not sure how it ended. This is my first book to read from Keneally, and I won't read another one. A good author owes us better construction and explanation. He assumes too much. The book would benefit from maps of Australia and the war movements. Also a timeline of the war would help. I did enjoy the parts about the nurses and what they had to endure.