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The Daughters of Mars

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  4,094 ratings  ·  839 reviews
In 1915, two spirited Australian sisters join the war effort as nurses, escaping the confines of their father's dairy 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 in the Dardanelles, then on the Western Front. Yet they find courage in the face of extreme danger and become t ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published May 23rd 2013 by Sceptre (first published June 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Dec 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Keneally’s masterful novel, THE DAUGHTERS OF MARS, was originally published in 2012. He tells his tale of World War I voluntary service life through the eyes of two Australian sisters serving as combat nurses—Naomi and Sally Durance.

Beginning in 1915, the Durance sisters leave Australia and find themselves serving in the Dardanelles. There is a tension between the two as they share a guilty secret. The pace of their work keeps the secret in the far recesses of their brains, but it is neve
May 31, 2012 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
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
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
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
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
Apr 28, 2016 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,
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Setting: Australia & Europe; 1914-22 - Sisters Naomi and Sally Durance are the daughters of a 'cow-cocky' (dairy farmer) in northern New South Wales but both are qualified nurses, Naomi in a Sydney hospital and younger sister Sally at the local hospital. With the advent of war, both volunteer as army nurses and are accepted. Ending up initially in the Dardanelles and Egypt, caring for the wounded from the ill-conceived Gallipoli campaign, before eventually being transferred to the Western Front ...more
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.) ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jun 10, 2012 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
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hf
This epic of WWI (1914-1918) is told from the perspective of two Australian sisters & nurses who enlist to serve as Australian Army Nurses. Naomi & Sally are no longer close and even have a somewhat strained relationship after the death of their mother. They separately enlisted and have an uneasy journey together as they move into their first assignments in Egypt. This is a sweeping drama that takes them from Egypt to off the shores of Gallipoli, working on Lemnos, to the horrors of France and B ...more
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
Aug 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Angela M
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Diane S ☔
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
Mij Woodward
Oct 15, 2012 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
Roman Clodia
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Keneally takes an almost documentary approach in this long book as he follows a group of Australian nurses through the First World War. There's a slow start to this so stick with the first couple of chapters but things pick up once the women board a hospital ship sailing to the Dardanelles.

Character doesn't seem to be the prime intention here (though Matron Mitchie gives a fine account of herself) and the two sisters, Sally and Naomi, who sit at the heart of the book are barely distinguishable.
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia, fiction
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
Oct 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Narrated by Julie-Ann Elliott and borrowed from the National Library for the Blind and Print Disabled BARD.

Emotional look at Australian military nurses in WWI. Must have some equivalencies to nursing in a COVID ICU. The triage stress really hit me.
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 05, 2013 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
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
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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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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Two Australian sisters witness horrors as World War I nurses in the new historical epic The Daughters of Mars from the acclaimed scribe of...
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“Sometimes, Freud argued, people need a history enema.” 0 likes
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