The Daughters of Mars

The Daughters of Mars

A Novel

  • reading group guide
  • bestseller
In what is perhaps “the best novel of his career” (The Spectator), the acclaimed author of Schindler’s List tells the unforgettable story of two sisters whose lives are transformed by the cataclysm of the first world war.

IN 1915, Naomi and Sally Durance, two spirited Australian sisters, join the war effort as nurses, escaping the confines of their father’s farm and carrying a guilty secret with them. Amid the carnage, the sisters’ tenuous bond strengthens as they bravely face extreme danger and hostility—sometimes from their own side. There is great humor and compassion, too, and the inspiring example of the incredible women they serve alongside. In France, each meets an exceptional man, the kind for whom she might relinquish her newfound independence— if only they all survive.

At once vast in scope and extraordinarily intimate, The Daughters of Mars is a remarkable novel about suffering and transcendence, despair and triumph, and the simple acts of decency that make us human even in a world gone mad.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 528 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476734620 | 
  • May 2014
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Read an Excerpt

3

Murdering Mrs. Durance

It was said around the valley that the two Durance girls went off but just the one bothered to come back. People could not have said which one, since both the girls were aloof and looked similar—dark and rather tall. There was confusion even in the local paper. And they weren’t the sort of girls whose names were called across streets—girlfriend hallooing girlfriend in the excitement of Kempsey’s big shopping days. Before the war it was the younger one—wasn’t it?—who stayed at home with her parents. The slightly shorter one, anyhow. And it was she who took her mother, Mrs.... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Daughters of Mars includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

In 1915, two spirited Australian sisters: Naomi and Sally Durance, join the war effort as nurses. Naomi and Sally have never been close–Naomi moved away from home as soon as she could, while Sally stayed behind. But now the sisters are joined by a dark secret–their complicity in their mother’s merciful death, after a long bout with cancer. Although both sisters are used to tending to the sick, nothing can prepare them for what they are about to confront, first near Gallipoli, then on the Western Front in Europe. First their hospital ship, the Archimedes, sinks after a U-boat attack, and the sisters are thrown into the rescue effort with a gifted surgeon, Ian Kiernan. Then, in France, Naomi nurses in a volunteer hospital established by a willful British noblewoman, Lady Tarlton, while Sally edges closer to the front. Sally meets an aspiring artist from their hometown, Charlie Condon, and falls in love; Naomi, meanwhile, decides to marry Lieutenant Kiernan. Both sisters find themselves on the verge of giving up their precious independence, eve see more

About the Author

Thomas Keneally
Photograph © Newspix via Getty Images

Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty-one novels since. They include Schindler’s List, which won the Booker Prize in 1982, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates, all of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He has also written several works of nonfiction, including his boyhood memoir, Homebush Boy, The Commonwealth of Thieves, and Searching for Schindler. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney, Australia.

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