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The Daughters of Mars

The Daughters of Mars

A Novel

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From the acclaimed author of Schindler’s List comes the epic, 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. Though they are used to tending the sick, nothing could have prepared them for what they confront, first on a hospital ship near Gallipoli, then on the Western Front.

Yet amid the carnage, the sisters become the friends they never were at home and find them­selves courageous in the face of extreme danger and also the hostility from some on their own side. There is great bravery, humor, and compassion, too, and the inspiring example of the remarkable women they serve alongside. In France, where Naomi nurses in a hospital set up by the eccen­tric Lady Tarlton while Sally works in a casualty clearing station, each meets an exceptional man: the kind of men for whom they might give up some of their newfound independence—if only they all survive.

At once vast in scope and extraordinarily intimate, The Daughters of Mars brings World War I vividly to life from an uncommon perspec­tive. Thomas Keneally has written 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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  • Atria Books | 
  • 528 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476734637 | 
  • August 2013
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Read an Excerpt


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.


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

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