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The Daughters of Mars

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  3,141 Ratings  ·  716 Reviews
In 1915, two spirited Australian sisters join the war effort as nurses, escaping the confines of their father’s farm and carrying a guilty secret with them. Used to tending the sick as they are, nothing could have prepared them for what they confront, first near Gallipoli, then on the Western Front.

Yet amid the carnage, Naomi and Sally Durance become the friends they never
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Hardcover, 528 pages
Published August 20th 2013 by Atria Books (first published June 1st 2012)
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Sue am frustrated by this because of feeling that even posing the question created a spoiler.
as long as my response can be hidden and not ruin it for…more
am frustrated by this because of feeling that even posing the question created a spoiler.
as long as my response can be hidden and not ruin it for others...given the fact that at the beginning it's mentioned that people had difficulty telling the sisters apart, it brings it back around full circle in a sense.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Kim
Aug 04, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I picked up this novel from my local bookstore shortly after it was published in September last year, not because of any particular interest in or knowledge about the involvement of nurses in World War I, but because I respect Thomas Keneally as a writer and and hadn't read any of his work for a while. It took me several months to start reading the book and a hour or two of reading it to decide that I was going to like it. For the past two days I haven't wanted to put it down.

Keneally's main ch
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Warwick
I came to this after reading many books about the Western Front written by people who were actually there, and part of me found it difficult to adjust to a modern literary treatment. It struck me suddenly – unfairly – as distasteful to turn these events into the material of a story. And so I was looking hard for some kind of thematic purpose to talking about 1914–1918 beyond just using it as a source of dramatic incident.

What this book is going for is a sense of sweeping grandeur, an epic scope
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Amy
Sep 09, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
I was really looking forward to reading this but in the end I found it just okay. There were bits of absolutely beautiful writing; however, they were buried within page after page of fragmentary descriptions, bizarrely structured sentences, and quotation-less dialogue. For a "sweeping, epic book" (according to the back cover), I agree with other reviewers that the story and its characters are passionless, remote, and distant. The book slogs through the first three years of the war. The main char ...more
Andrea
May 06, 2016 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this as my ANZAC read - something that has become a bit of a tradition for me in recent years. It's had mixed reviews, with a lot of readers put off by the lack of quotation marks for the dialogue (true!). But I'd never read anything by Thomas Keneally before, so I thought I'd give it a try. The verdict? I really liked it.

It seemed very familiar, covering a lot of the same ground as Anzac Girls by Peter Rees, which was made into a TV series (which I loved) for the 2015 ANZAC centenary,
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MaryG2E
My feelings about this book are mixed. On the one hand, I enjoyed the story, and in particular the little snippets and anecdotes which enliven the 'official' history of Anzacs during World War 1. Seeing the war through the eyes of hard-working army nurses offers fresh perspectives, which I appreciated. I greatly enjoy the brilliant, encyclopaedic mind of Thomas Keneally, one of Australia's most respected authors. On the other hand, I was frustrated by the style of the novel. By that I mean the u ...more
Phrynne
Nov 12, 2014 Phrynne rated it it was ok
On one level I did enjoy this book. It is an easy read and is very informative about what our soldiers and nurses went through in World War 1. I had a degree of interest in finding out what happened in the end to each of the characters although I was never at any time particularly invested in any of them. The author writes in a very detached manner which means the reader remains quite uninvolved throughout the book. I did not like the lack of quotation marks, nor was I comfortable with being giv ...more
Penny
Oct 05, 2013 Penny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
This is an excellent, multi-layered book about 2 sisters from Australia who volunteer to nurse in WWI.

They are somewhat estranged due to their mother dying and their individual responses to that. Both of the girls face hardship both due to their work and in their personal lives. The book is more an epic than a romance story though. The story swings from a hospital ship, to Egypt, to Gallipoli, Australia and the trenches of northern France. There is a whole host of characters that flow through th
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Patricia
Nov 15, 2013 Patricia rated it liked it
Great subject - poor ending which is amazing since Keneally wrote over 500 pages of narrative, or should I say 500+ pages of quotation mark less narrative. Other reviewers have mentioned that perhaps Keneally is such a star in the writing firmament that his editors don't/can't suggest basics like using quotation marks in dialogue. This is unfortunate. I couldn't decide whether the lack of quotation marks was a purposeful choice to lend a "stream of consciousness" aspect to the novel, or if Kenea ...more
John Needham
I came to this book quite expecting, knowing the grim subject matter, to be tremendously shocked, angered, moved. I suppose I did have all those reactions, but less so than when I read, for example, Birdsong. It took me a while to realise why. I think it was the writing style; to me it seemed flat because of the formal language and avant-garde lack of speech marks, which seemed a contradictory mixture. At times I had to really concentrate to work out when people were speaking, and I slightly res ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jun 14, 2012 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘Where was the space for mourning in this air of blood and acrid wounds and unwashed men?’

In this novel (his 29th), Tom Keneally tells the story of Naomi and Sally Durance, daughters of a Macleay Valley dairy-farming family, who volunteer as nurses during the Great War. In 1914, in Sydney, Naomi and Sally sign up to serve in the war that has just broken out on the other side of the world. Each of the sisters has a reason for volunteering; a reason which creates both closeness and distance betwee
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Denise
Jan 03, 2014 Denise rated it it was ok
There were two sisters from Australia. They were nurses. Something happened (or maybe it didn't.) The war started. Some other things happened. Some of them were very bad. The sisters weren't the type to get emotional. There were some conversations, with no quotation marks. More things happened. The war ended. They survived (or maybe not.)
Carolyn
Aug 02, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Naomi and Sally Durance are sisters from the Macleay district of NSW, both working as nurses at the outbreak of WWI. Naomi had taken herself off to work at a big hospital in Sydney while Sally stayed home with her parents and nursed at the local District hospital. They both volunteer as military nurses at the start of the war and are sent out to Egypt to nurse on the hospital ships transporting the wounded from the Dardanelles.

The book is wonderfully descriptive of the conditions the nurses and
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Seamus Mcduff
I hearby formally declare Tom Keneally the master of the awkward sentence.

I really wanted to like this and I thought I would; I'd heard a lot about Tom Keneally and his Man Booker for Schindler's Ark, saw the Spielberg movie, etc, etc. But in the end -- and I hate to say this Tom, because you look like a nice smiley fellow in all your photos -- on almost every page I was troubled with the involuntary suspicion that - hmm, maybe this isn't really the greatest writing. To be honest, I struggled to
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Laura
My rating: 3,5 stars

This is the story of two young Australian nurses, Naomi and Sally Durance, who have faced the horror of The Great War in Egypt, at Gallipoli and then in the northern Europe. In their final destiny, they work for the Australian Voluntary Hospital which was run for a visionary and eccentric Lady Tarlton.

The story is based on the journals of Australian nursing sisters and they describe in detail the first anesthesia's techniques and how they faced the Spanish flu.

About the autho
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thewanderingjew
Sep 23, 2013 thewanderingjew rated it it was amazing
The book was beautifully written with a prose that was easy to follow and absorb. It tells the story of a group of devoted Australian nurses, during World War I. On every page, opposites coexist: beauty and ugliness, love and hate, fidelity and betrayal, fierceness and tenderness, numbness and pain, tears and smiles, sadness and laughter, the wounded and the healed, in essence, war and peace. There was no gratuitous sex to diminish the novel's relevance, although romance was a significant part o ...more
Angela M
Oct 17, 2013 Angela M rated it really liked it
This book was a little slow going for me at first . The story of two Australian sisters who are volunteer nurses during WW I , focused a lot in the beginning on the horrendous wounds , loss of limbs , and other injuries that sisters Sally and Naomi tended to . They seem distant from each other and distant to the reader as well .but then the story develops into more than just a story of war and I was glad that I stayed with it.

As their assignments continue and other nurses , doctors , and wounded
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Mij Woodward
Feb 13, 2013 Mij Woodward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reading-matters
I am in a state of astonishment. Just finished the last page of this 520-page novel.

Should I wait until a little rationality has returned to my mind to write my review, or should I attempt to bring the cells of my brain into some kind of working order and speak up right away?

To begin with, through-out a good portion of the story, I felt a little cheated, a little disappointed. That's because my very favorite sort of fiction takes one or two main characters and then has some kind of drama, some k
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Rdurie
Apr 12, 2013 Rdurie rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, australia
I enjoyed this book in parts. Seeing WW1 from the perspective of nurses was interesting and some of the characters were engaging. However, the novel is dragged down by the pedestrian writing. I suspect Keneally has such a reputation that his editors do not do their jobs, they just publish what he writes. There were great swathes of material which should have been cut and which I skim read. The book should have been one hundred pages or so shorter. It often happens when a lot of research is invol ...more
Diane S ☔
May 29, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
I love historical fiction and I really admired Schindler's list. This is an epic novel that seemed to go on and on. Loved the historical facts, loved the two sisters and the closeness they at times shared. So why didn't I love this novel? There is a fine line, between adding details to keep the reader interested in the story and adding details in such a quantity that it overwhelms the reader. That is what I felt happened in this story. Everytime I felt myself melding into the story it would go w ...more
Camie
Aug 26, 2014 Camie rated it liked it
After the mysterious and untimely death of their mother, sisters Sally and Naomi leave their father's Australian farm to become nurses in the European theatre of WW1. An interesting book written from the perspective of the generally unsung heroines as they cope with what is essentially the continual bloodbath of the war. This book is a saga, and became a project for me, due in part to Keneally's decision to write the entire book without quotation marks. Spoiler Alert ... More than a little frust ...more
Becky
May 09, 2013 Becky rated it really liked it
I had a hard time getting used to the lack of commas and quotation marks in this tale of two sisters who nurse for Australia during World War I. Although slow and quite lengthy, the book held my interest with details of nursing under primitive conditions during war conditions. The most interesting parts for me were the descriptions of life aboard ship on the journey to Egypt from Australia and then in the war zone of Gallipoli. The horror of war was clearly indicated in the details of battle inj ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
As to the prose, this was a pleasure to read. No strings of declarative sentences less than 10 words in length. I can't think why I'd start this review with comments on the prose, but it was both a relief and a delight and the first thing I noticed in comparison to recent reads.

Keneally sends forth to the war in Europe the Durance sisters of eastern Australia who have volunteered for the medical service and are trained as nurses. I think Keneally got past his lack of ability in female characteri
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Julie
Nov 17, 2013 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably closer to a 2.5, but the writing is excellent.

Better to have renamed the book The Daughters of Morpheus. A bit sleepy overall.

The premise was fascinating to me: nurses, and the front lines, in World War I.

I did not connect with any of the characters: I felt like I was viewing them through a veil; everything was foggy, insubstantial, including the raw pain of the soldiers as they lay dying. One could argue that that was Keneally's intent: to somehow anesthetize the audience: render the
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Kathy
I really, really wanted to like this book. So, if I could give half-stars, this would be 2.5. But that's not an option, and my disappointment in the book outweighs the positives. There are parts that I truly did like (particularly Book One, set in Gallipoli), but Book Two needed an editor. It was same stuff, different field hospital for page after page after page. Also, would it have been too much to ask the publisher to put in maps on the end pages? It would have been very helpful in trying to ...more
LemonLinda
May 31, 2014 LemonLinda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hfu-2014
I knew Keneally was a brilliant author after reading Schindler's List, but I enjoyed this one even more, I think. This is the quintessential war book - iconic WWI. It is definitely deep, heavy and quite grim in parts making it a challenging read at times, but it was also so authentic and real. It delved into sibling conflicts, relationships formed under such contrived circumstances, the rebelliousness within that causes one to choose unexpected paths and much more. It was extremely well-research ...more
Martha
Mar 19, 2014 Martha rated it it was amazing
No doubt in my mind, Thomas Keneally is one of the best living storytellers we have. What I find most convincing is how he writes without drama about circumstances that have the capability of sending shock waves of consequence through the lives of his characters. In this case, World War I, when millions of young, vital men were fed into the great, prolonged war machine that spit most back out either dead or damaged. But the novel stays away from the front lines, viewing this war through the eyes ...more
Paul Pessolano
Aug 26, 2013 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it
“The Daughters of Mars” by Thomas Keneally, published by Atria Books.

Category –Fiction Publication Date - August 20, 2013

This is a story of two Australian sisters who are nurses and volunteer for duty during WWI. They have a terrible secret which they take with them that will haunt them through the entire book.

They are first assigned duties on a second front that was opened and is known as the Gallipoli War. I highly recommend that you look up facts concerning this war as it will help one to be
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Shelley Fearn
Sep 26, 2013 Shelley Fearn rated it really liked it
There were over 200,000 casualties in the 9 months of the Gallipoli Campaign. How fitting for Keneally, an Australian, to write this novel about the nurses who treated the wounded there.

Naomi and Sally Durance are sisters who join the Australian forces as nurses. Typical of women in Edwardian times, they apply to be military nurses to escape their lack of prospects in rural Australia. They are little prepared for the carnage that starts as soon as their hospital ship is deployed to take on the
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Joy Horowitz
Jul 12, 2013 Joy Horowitz rated it it was amazing
Here is a profound relationship between two sisters -- complicated and loving and true -- during World War I and how, as nurses, they deal with the trauma of war. Keneally is a master story teller and writes with a knowing medical perspective, including about pain and suffering and death. "They both knew how rare it was that a patient expired while the nurse was standing there to observe and hold a hand. The dead went almost secretively."

The Durance sisters, after their mother's death from cerv
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Mary Drake
Oct 28, 2014 Mary Drake rated it liked it
Sadly disappointed. I have a high opinion of Mr Kenneally's writing but on this occasion I really struggled. It seemed to me that he struggled to find the best the best medium to tell this story with the result that he chopped and changed strategies as he went along. The Durance sisters were known for being aloof and we can see why but it's not until the last 20% of the story that I got a real feel for who they were and felt an urgency to know what happened next. Much of the book focused on plot ...more
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Sally's illness and survival or death 5 52 Jul 01, 2014 04:48AM  
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Thomas Michael Keneally, AO (born 7 October 1935) is an Australian novelist, playwright and author of non-fiction. He is best known for writing Schindler's Ark, the Booker Prize-winning novel of 1982, which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. The book would later be adapted to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), which won the Academy Award for Best Pict ...more
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