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helenliz

helenliz

The Rose Of Sebastopol

The Rose of Sebastopol - Katharine McMahon August's book club.One of those books that a bit of a slow burner - took me several chapters of ploughing through to start to get into it. Jumps backwards & forwards between the present, 10 years ago and the recent past (if that makes sense). Tells of Mariella, a young girl who is very much a product of her upbringing in early 19C London. Father an engineer (of some description) while mother is involved in worthy causes - mainly a home for retired governesses. Mariella stitches. Lots. In the house is a second cousin type young man (Henry) it is telegraphed from early on that they are going to be an item. not necessarily due to any great passion (in fact he's a bit of a damp dishrag, if I'm honest)but because it's easy and sort of expected by both of them. And life is all very ordered (and frankly rather dull). However, Mariella has a cousin, Rose. And I can't say I like Rose any more than Mariella, as Rose is one of those people who are always full of ideas and enthusiasms that consume them. (I think I know a Rose - a conversation ends up being a bit like going 10 rounds with Frank Bruno)They're of an age and the flash backs to 10 years ago revolve around a visit to the home of Rose, her mother & step father & 2 step brothers. Rose is full of how she's going to change the world and how that means Mariella (and everyone else who gets in her way) has to bend over backwards to accommodate her. She strikes me as somewhat blinkered and selfish. Rose's step father dies and Rose plus hypochondriac mother are turned out the house - turn up at Mariella's parent's house, expecting to stay. At the same time, Henry is making a name for himself as a surgeon while Rose conceives a desire to be a nurse. Then the Crimean war breaks out - and breaks into the ordered house in London. Henry goes off to solve the Cholera issue (single handedly, he's got such an inflated idea of himself) while Rose takes the first opportunity to head out as a Nurse. then silence. Rose vanishes, Henry falls ill & Mariella is dragged so far out of her comfort zone that she thinks she'll die as she heads out to find Henry, then Rose. As usual, you have no idea what you can do until pushed, and Mariella is pushed further than she ever expects, and has all sorts of squeamish fits over some of the things she has to do, but she does them, and her character becomes formed in this journey. She ends the book a very different person and in a very different situation than she starts it, or, indeed, from how she would have ended up, had the war not intervened. Oddly, for a book where I spent a lot of it wanting to slap the lead characters, I actually quite enjoyed it! Mariella is a product of her age but comes on leaps and bounds as the book progresses. There is a completely believable cast of supporting characters to bolster the sometime quite claustrophobic relationship between Mariella and both Henry & Rose. Some nice touches of putting the fiction into a historical framework - although I suspect it is entirely a work of fiction in its details. I may well venture another of her books, based on this one.