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The Rose of Sebastopol Paperback – February 2, 2010
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This novel works so well on so many levels that it’s certain to appeal to a broad audience. With a practiced hand, McMahon, author of the best-selling The Alchemist’s Daughter (2006), physically and psychologically entrenches her characters in the mid-nineteenth century, providing readers with a fascinating window to Victorian lifestyles, mores, and mind-sets. When relatively sheltered and complacent Mariella Lingwood travels far beyond her well-heeled London comfort zone, her life is forever altered in unexpected ways. Setting out to care for her fiancé, a Crimean War surgeon who has fallen ill, Mariella learns that her cousin Rosa, a battlefield nurse, has gone missing. As the mystery deepens and Mariella attempts to discover what actually happened to Rosa, her investigation morphs into her own journey of self-discovery. Expect high demand for this superbly rendered mix of historical fiction and mystery. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The author of "The Rose of Sebastopol" is a master at the kind of manipulation any writer needs to be able to use in order to make readers think the way the main character is. So it's no surprise that I identified with Mariella (the main character) and saw in little nuances how her cousin Rosa (who came to live with Mariella's family in London) was gradually stealing, bewitching, Mariella's fiancé.
But not everything is how it seems. Rosa is determined to make something of her life and she wants it to be in medicine. But at this point in history a female doctor is practically unheard of-even female nurses are rare enough. So when Rosa has a chance to meet Mariella's beloved Henry-a doctor-she jumps at it.
But war is about to break out and soon Henry is gone-doctoring soldiers in the Crimea. Then Florence Nightingale's team of nurses is dispatched to help with the terribly planned war and Rosa is determined to go. Mariella is soon left all alone with her sewing, waiting for letters from the two people she loves most.
But then Rosa stops writing and Henry turns up sick in Italy. On a mission to rescue her fiancé Mariella learns that he saw Rosa during the war-and is now obsessed with her. Seeking to help his troubled mind she decides to go find Rosa.
But the battlefield is no place for Mariella, who has never been anything but perfectly dressed and proper. Soon she learns her unknown strength in the face of terror and emerges from the cocoon she has been swaddled in her whole life. But can she find her cousin?
A great deal of this book is descriptions of what the characters are wearing but seeing that the narrator is a needlewoman that makes sense. The back and forth in the time line can get a little confusing-especially since the chapters are so short, but in the end it does make sense. I was unable to put this book down once I made it past about page 20. Unfortunately, the ending in no way lives up to the rest of the book.
Once again that annoying tradition/habit/technique that authors are too likely to employ of taking us back and forth in time to reveal the past in proscribed amounts made the flow of the story stop-stutter.
I found myself repeatedly wanting to alternately shake and slap the protagonist, though she did toughen up by the end, thank goodness.
This book was far too plodding and dull for my tastes and there were so many really juicy ingredients that were never explored to my satisfaction.
I listened to this on audio and had it reading at 1.5 time, I would have stepped it up to double time if I could have understood the reader at that rate. I couldn't wait for the story to be over, but I wasn't willing to stop listening because I still wanted to find out what happened to the characters.
I actually felt like a lot of this book was a bit underdeveloped. I enjoy books where one has to look between the lines and draw their own conclusions and opinions, however, there really wasn't enough to solidly justify or confirm much so parts felt like I was creating the story for myself instead of reading it as written by someone else.
I love when novels span time and simultaneously give the reader two connected stories, but the back story did not always seem relevant. Some of the scenes felt completely disconnect and unimportant to the main story which, honestly, sparked a desire in me to just put the book down. I am used to getting through a novel, especially those of the historical fiction genre, in no more than three days. This novel took over a week for me to get through and, much of that week, I found that I was picking it up begrudgingly --not for enjoyment, but because I felt I'd already invested so much time, that I should just finish it. I kept telling myself that something was about to happen, that I would love this novel in the end. It didn't happen. I found much of the novel dreadfully boring because I always felt like I was right on the edge of something exciting, but that was it; It never went beyond the edge and it seemed to drag on, skirting all of the excitement without ever getting too close.
The ended did nothing to improve my opinion. I closed the book feeling as though I'd wasted my time, which could be due to my loss of interest. The book felt censored and the end was the same --it lacked depth and gave no definitive answers. There were loose ends that were not left in a teasing fashion to leave room for a sequel, but just seemed forgotten.
The actual story idea(s), I loved. The writing was good with minimal typos. I just felt like it could have been handled differently; that more excitement could have been added if the author had just fallen into the story instead of showing so much restraint.
I really wish that my review was better and I hate feeling like I am being unkind about anyone's work, but this book just wasn't enjoyable for me in its current state.
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