The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon

About the book

In 1855 Rosa Barr, a headstrong young woman, travels to the Crimea, against the wishes of her family, determined to work as a nurse. She does not return.Three people have been intimately connected with her. One, her brother, a soldier and adventurer; the second a doctor, traumatized by the war, and harbouring a secret passion, and the third, Mariella, her cousin and childhood friend, who must now uncover the truth about what has happened to the missing nurse.Mariella’s epic journey takes her from the domestic quiet of London to the foothills of Italy, and on to the ravaged Russian landscape of the Crimea, where she must discover what has happened to her captivating and mysterious cousin and uncover the secrets of those who loved her..

Reviewed by New Forest/Waterside U3A Reading Group:

This was a very romantic Victorian tale related with all the false modesty of the period: the constricted lives of women, oblique hints at lesbianism, paedophilia and class distinction. The main characters are all dispatched on pointless quests which succeed only in revealing that war is brutal and bloody, that the British army succeeds by default and that Florence Nightingale was not quite the angelic force history portrays her. The descriptive writing is at times powerful but the novel’s structure is such that for many, only the group allegiance got them thought the first third of the book and left them undecided about who qualified as the heroine. The need constantly to explain character motivation by flashback to earlier times suggests a lack of confidence in telling a straightforward story.

Star rating: ***

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