The Rose of Sebastopol
By Katherine McMahon
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009. 380 pages. Historical Fiction
It is 1850s England and the Crimean war is brewing in the faraway city of Sebastopol on the shores of the Black Sea. The book begins with a scene that hints at the tumult that is to come to small, timid Mariella and then travels back in time to open up the absorbing relationship of Mariella and her head-strong cousin, Rosa.
After receiving an unsettling letter that her fiancé, a Crimean War surgeon has fallen ill, Mariella breaks out of her comfortable routine to go to him. Once there, she learns that her cousin, Rosa, who was denied entry into Florence Nightingale’s nurse corps, but brazenly goes anyway, has gone missing. Mariella despite being far too scared ends up traveling to the Crimean war front to search for Rosa and thus begins a journey that changes everything for her.
This is an immensely readable account of two women caught up in the larger events of their time. I found the book difficult to put down and especially enjoyed the glimpses of Victorian London, the medical world of the time, and the conditions of war. I felt the ending was a little rushed, but would otherwise highly recommend reading this book.