Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon

It’s 1854 and British troops are fighting hard in the Crimea. Mariella sits in London, sewing for the war effort and making scrapbooks whilst her cousin Rosa and fiancĂ© Henry go to Russia to help the wounded. When Henry falls ill and they loose contact with Rosa, Mariella finds herself drawn to the Crimea to find some answers. Whilst on this adventure she is forced to reflect on her relationships with Rosa, Henry and the rest of her family and realise she has been blind to the truth.

The Rose of Sebastopol is an interesting study into the relationships between Mariella and those around her. Mariella’s character is reserved, introverted and she has set herself specific boundaries. Rosa’s character is the complete reverse of this, she is outgoing and feisty. Whilst Mariella has a tendancy to start a project and see it through, Rosa, for the most part, appears to move from project to project without necessarily finishing any of them. The only two constants in Rosa’s life appear to be her desire to nurse and her love for Mariella. This character study can serve as a warning to the reader to not allow themselves to limit their lives like Mariella, but also to adopt some common sense unlike Rosa.

The book serves to show the misery of the Crimean War. Troops were under prepared, poorly equipped and were fighting a war that to many was not justified. There was tremendous loss of life, both on the battlefield and in the hospitals where medical provision was exceedingly poor and hygiene dire. References as made to Florence Nightingale in the book, as Rosa wishes to emulate her, and for those with an interest in Nightingale and nursing in the Crimea this is a book well worth reading.

The author’s use of flashbacks in the book, whilst trying to flesh out the characters and their history, does prove at times to be confusing. Readers should take great care to note the date and place at the top of each chapter (if they are noted) in order to keep track of the storyline.

The book is engaging and thought provoking, well written and well researched. However the book is not suitable for those looking for a light hearted and uplifting read. Those who want a more challenging book, a book that draws on this specific period of history and who have an interest in human nature in respect to love and faithfulness, this is the book for you.

*3 stars*

I have tried to write this review using the suggestion made by Amber in the comments to Michael Scott’s ‘The Alchemyst’ (click here to read those comments). It is not my usual style but I hope that readers find this new style of more use. I would very much welcome comment on this so please click on the post a comment button below and add them. Remember you don’t have to be a member of Blogger to do so! Alternatively you can send me an e-mail (see my profile for more details).

The reason I have only given this book 3 stars is that whilst is it well written and a good book, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. Although I have tried to be objective with my review I felt I had to be honest about how I rated it.