Book Review: The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon


Mariella is the only child of well to do parents living outside London in the mid 1800's. It is the Victorian Period, and society and culture standards are as strict and suffocating as a too tight whale bone corset. Mariella learned to stitch and sew as a young girl from her "poor Aunt Eppie." Sewing is a hobby, escape, and creative and emotional outlet for Mariella. Eppie died leaving a young son Henry that grows up to be a surgeon. He has the appearance of being a successful and enterprising and mature young man. When the Crimean War begins Henry makes startling plans to help using his skills for the wounded. Mariella is consumed with worry for her dearly loved Henry. Rosa is a cousin of Mariella, they are closer than cousins or even friends. There is an emotionally dependent bordering on obsession with them. Mariella is a poster girl of a Victorian woman. Rosa is a woman who wants to leave the constraints of culture and make a positive difference in her life. Rosa is opinionated, bold, loyal, assertive, intelligent, brave, long-suffering, and beautiful. Rosa wants to leave with the group of nurses that are accompanying Florence Nightingale to the Crimean War. When letters become sporadic and then end from both Henry and Rosa, Mariella make an unusual decision to travel to this war region in order to find them.

There are some things that I liked about this book, and a few that I did not like.
What I disliked:
The author travels back and forth in time: 1840, 1844, 1854, 1855. It is difficult as a reader, even while taking notes, to keep up with this back and forth. The chapters are short and this helped with the time periods, but it did become tiring.
The ending did not wrap up neatly, I am aware that life is not neat, but I was left not fully understanding a few things. I also did not find out what happened to some of the lesser characters.
All through the book from the beginning of the relationship with Mariella and Rosa----what was up with them? Friends okay, but they were more than close. I wondered what had happened that the author had not shared with me yet about 1 of them or both, that had led to this deep attachment.
I wanted more information about nursing and what Rosa specifically did. I would have liked more historical information about the beginning of nursing.
The three main characters Mariella, Henry, and Rosa are all characters I would have liked independent of one another, I did not like them together in 1 book, and I have not decided yet why. Sorry.
What I liked:
The author did not tell us what is was like to live during this time period, she showed us by beautiful descriptive moving words.
Mariella was a woman that noticed clothing; its patterns, stitching, buttons. Mariella was attentive to a room, it decorations, cleanness, smell. Because she noticed these things the author allowed Mariella to tell us as well. What Mariella saw and experienced, we the reader did as well.
Mariella is naive, living in a small world not only because of culture standards, but also because of her own security and comfort. She is obsessive and fearful about dirt and disease. She diminishes and or hides her feelings, dissociates herself from those that are not of her class or religion. Yet, Mariella's character does develop well (positively) during the story.
The environment of London, Italy, and the Crimean areas are written about in depth. As well as travel accommodations during this period.
The Crimean War and the experiences of soldiers are lightly touched on, as well as after affects of war such as disease and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Published by Berkley Publisher--Penguin
Hardcover published 2009
Paperback published 2010
416 pages in paperback
Historical Fiction/Crimean War/1800's England/Victorian Period/Florence Nightingale

Link @ Berkley Publisher (Penguin):
http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780425232224,00.html?The_Rose_of_Sebastopol_Katharine_McMahon

Link @ Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Rose-Sebastopol-Katharine-McMahon/dp/B0048BPGMY/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1328275398&sr=1-1
Paperback $6.00
Kindle $12.99

Blissful Reading!
Annette

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