Summary and book reviews of In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl

In Falling Snow

by Mary-Rose MacColl

In Falling Snow
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Aug 2013, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

A bestselling Australian writer's American debut and a heart-wrenching novel of World War I, painting a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love.

Iris Crane's tranquil life is shattered when a letter summons memories from her bittersweet past: her first love, her best friend, and the tragedy that changed everything. Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. But in Paris she meets the charismatic Dr. Frances Ivens, who convinces Iris to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women - a decision that will change her life. Seamlessly interwoven is the story of Grace, Iris's granddaughter in 1970s Australia. Together their narratives paint a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love.

Excerpt
In Falling Snow

At first it was the summers I remembered, long warm days under the palest blue skies, the cornflowers and irises and forget-me-nots lining the road through the Lys forest, the buzz of insects going about their work, Violet telling me lies. He loves you, he loves you not, she'd recite, skipping along the road until all the petals were gone. She'd finish with "he loves you" no matter what the flower told her. I'd seen her cheat like that. Violet showed me an iris and told me what it was. Beautiful like you, she said. She couldn't believe I'd never seen one. They're common as weeds, she said. No offence. None taken.

But now in my mind's eye, it's winter, that first winter we arrived, Miss Ivens and me alighting from the train in Viarmes, the darkness descending, no one to meet us. And there's Miss Ivens herself, charging ahead to walk, not a thought for our luggage, abandoned on the station platform when we'd failed ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Caught up by Dr. Ivens' personality and vision, Iris postpones her original mission. Although she later comes to question her decision to stay at Royaumont, do you believe Tom would have returned with Iris to Australia had she found him earlier?

  2. Have you ever met someone like Dr. Ivens? Why is charisma as crucial a part of her job as talent?

  3. How does Cicely's story about her mentally ill mother add to the novel?

  4. Did Violet take Tom as a lover for her own sake or for Iris's? How did learning that Violet received the scholarship to study medicine affect your opinion of her?

  5. At the beginning of the book, Grace thinks of Iris as unerringly proper. It's only later that she discovers the many secrets her grandmother kept. ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

While those seeking a good WWI historical fiction novel may find In Falling Snow a bit of a disappointment, readers looking for an emotional, character-driven story will likely find it one of the best books they’ve come across recently. MacColl’s ability to realistically convey the experience of loss will undoubtedly win her many new fans.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

MacColl's novel will appeal to a wide audience including those who enjoy historical fiction and medical drama.

Booklist

This satisfying saga from an award-winning Australian author takes the reader across continents and time...Women as healers, family secrets, medical mysteries, historical setting - call the producers of Call the Midwife.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. MacColl's narrative is fortified by impeccable research and her innate ability to create a powerful bond between readers and characters. Well done.

Author Blurb Michelle Moran, bestselling author of Cleopatra's Daughter
An epic tale of love, heartache, and a sisterhood created by nursing in a time of war, In Falling Snow is one of those novels you will want to read again. If you liked The Aviator's Wife, you will love this book!

Author Blurb Robin Oliveira, New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter
This is a story of love, ultimately, and a woman whose life has sought to atone for a mistake she hardly knew she made ... At once perceptive and sympathetic, In Falling Snow beguiles, a tale of selflessness and youthful indiscretion as singular and seductive as one could hope for.

Author Blurb Sarah McCoy, author of the international bestseller and 2012 Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Best Historical Fiction The Baker's Daughter
In Falling Snow is expertly researched and written with a keen eye to the complexities of wartime and the mighty role of women therein. From past to present, Australia to France, MacColl guides readers through unknown lands abroad and territories of the heart. For readers, like me, who love to see history's forgotten heroes given powerful voice, you will delight in this novel.

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Beyond the Book

The Royaumont Abbey, France's Treasure

The Royaumont Abbey, where much of In Falling Snow is set, is located approximately 18 miles (30 kilometers) north of Paris in Val-d'Oise.

Dedicated in 1228 CE, the structure was commissioned by King Louis IX as a Cistercian abbey. The Cistercian order was established by a group of Benedictine monks in the Cîteaux Abbey around the year 1098. Their intent was to return to a strict observance of the Rule of Saint Benedict, and their order was known for its austerity and seclusion as well as a return to manual labor, particularly fieldwork. Cistercian architecture reflects these values, being simple and utilitarian and lacking adornment (elaborate architecture was considered a distraction). The abbeys are in remote valleys for ...

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