Paperback review: The Daughters of Mars, By Thomas Keneally

Tough, intimate portrait of women in the Great War

Naomi and Sally are Australian sisters and nurses serving during the First World War who both have their own reasons for leaving home and joining up.

Their experiences are every bit as extraordinary as those of the men they treat, but Keneally is not only concerned with war, but the battles between men and women as well – one nurse is raped by a soldier patient and it is the women, banding together, who bring him to justice in defiance of the male authorities who want to brush it all under the carpet. War provides the inevitable dramatic scenes and heartbreaking partings, but Keneally resists easy sentimentality, preferring a winning combination of mental toughness and touching intimacy.