The Rose of Sebastopol
I’ve just finished reading this week’s Richard and Judy’s book club choice, The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon and it was a lovely read. Set in the mid 19th century it tells the tale of a family caught up in the Crimean War, both in Crimea and back in London and the history between two disparate members of the family, following them from Derbyshire, to London and then the Crimea, one, Mariella calm and homely, the other Rosa headstrong and rebellious.
Now I don’t know much about the Crimean War and a map could have been useful (like in last week’s Richard and Judy choice, Random Acts of Heroic Love) so here’s a map I’ve just found.
From the Cambridge Modern History Atlas, 1912 at The University of Texas at Austin
I thought the book was beautifully written with a distinctive voice for it’ narrator Mariella. It was well researched and as Susan Hill (who suggested to the followers of her creative writing course to look at the Richard and Judy book club list as an indication of what is popular) said when describing the Richard and Judy list
You will find that most of them deal with countries other than this one and times other than now and several deal with war in one way or other. These are the books which have meat – the writers have something to write about, a story to tell, a time to immerse themselves in, another country to describe. This is the sort of book which a lot of people are reading now. They want meat. Thin, beautifully written, inward-looking contemporary literary novels are not fashionable and the ‘me’ novel does not find a place in this selection.
From Susan Hill’s blog post Aspirations
I can imagine that McMahon took the interesting subject of the Crimean War, imagined how it would effect the different members of the family, added some mystery and a love story and there you go, a plot!
And now for some major spoilers, please do not read if you’re planning to read the book or haven’t reached the end yet . . . . (I’ve written the paragraph below in white, so highlight to read)
I wasn’t too sure about the ending though, in the way how it ended when it did with Rosa’s death instead of tying up what happened to Mariella, Max and Henry. I suppose Rosa’s death was a powerful way to end the book instead of having it peter out in a ‘happy ending’ after I suppose Rosa had the ending she had been hurtling head long towards, still it left me slightly dissatisfied.
Finally I’ve noticed that the collective Richard and Judy list are up for the British Book Awards, so in Mrs. Lacer’s own ‘guess the winner’ list I’ll be ranking which book on the list I think should win. So I’ve read two now, so although a short list this is what I think is the best so far;
The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon – so far the most flawlessly written, it is deeply and beautifully researched invoking the sites, sounds and smells of the Crimean War.
Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann