Naomi and Sally Durance are daughters of a dairy farmer from the Macleay Valley. Bound together in complicity by what they consider a crime, when the Great War begins in 1914 they hope to submerge their guilt by leaving for Europe to nurse the tides of young wounded. They head for the Dardanelles on the hospital ship Archimedes. Their education in medicine, valour, and human degradation continues on the Greek island of Lemnos, then on the Western Front.
Here, new outrages - gas, shell-shock - present themselves. Naomi encounters the wonderful, eccentric Lady Tarlton, who is founding a voluntary hospital near Boulogne; Sally serves in a casualty clearing station close to the front. They meet the men with whom they would wish to spend the rest of their lives.
Inspired by the journals of Australian nurses who gave their all to the Great War effort and the men they nursed, The Daughters of Mars is vast in scope yet extraordinarily intimate. A stunning tour de force to join the best First World War literature, and one that casts a penetrating light on the lives of obscure but strong women caught in the great mill of history.
"No Australian author has written more eloquently or extensively of war than Tom Keneally.... Now, at last and triumphantly, there is a full-scale Keneally novel of the Great War.... All of it is handled by Keneally with calm mastery. If epic is no longer a literary category that fits this world, The Daughters of Mars nonetheless has a tragic and humane span that few recent novels have attempted, let alone equalled." (Canberra Times)
"Keneally, for decades one of Australia's most prominent and exuberant storytellers, has a passion for history that is infectious and irresistible. His new novel tackles - on an epic scale - the role of Australian nurses in World War I.... Keneally's fascination with the roles of ordinary people like these young women play in momentous events gives The Daughters of Mars its terrific energy and freshness." (Adelaide Advertiser)
"The huge talents of Thomas Keneally are everywhere on display." (The Guardian)
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Interesting WWI novel with an Australian bent
- Sarah Gamp