The Rose of Sebastopol

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Overview

In 1854, beautiful, adventurous Rosa Barr travels to the Crimean battlefield with Florence Nightingale's nursing corps. A headstrong idealist, longing to break out of the rigid confines of life as a young lady, Rosa is determined to make a difference in the world.

For Mariella Lingwood, Rosa's cousin, the war is contained within the pages of her scrapbook, in her London sewing circle, and in the letters she receives from her fiancé, Henry—a celebrated surgeon who has also ...

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The Rose of Sebastopol

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Overview

In 1854, beautiful, adventurous Rosa Barr travels to the Crimean battlefield with Florence Nightingale's nursing corps. A headstrong idealist, longing to break out of the rigid confines of life as a young lady, Rosa is determined to make a difference in the world.

For Mariella Lingwood, Rosa's cousin, the war is contained within the pages of her scrapbook, in her London sewing circle, and in the letters she receives from her fiancé, Henry—a celebrated surgeon who has also volunteered to work within the shadow of the guns. When Henry falls ill and is sent to recuperate in Italy, Mariella impulsively decides she must go to him. But upon her arrival at his lodgings, she makes a heartbreaking discovery: Rosa has disappeared without a trace. Following the trail of her elusive cousin, Mariella's epic journey takes her from the domestic restraint of Victorian London to the ravaged landscape of the Crimea and the tragic city of Sebastopol, where she encounters Rosa's dashing stepbrother, a reckless cavalry officer whose complex past—and future—is inextricably bound up with her own. As Mariella's quest leads her deeper into the dark heart of the conflict, her ordered world begins to crumble, and she finds she has much to learn about secrecy, faithfulness, and love.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Is love complicated or a complication? McMahon (The Alchemist's Daughter) explores this issue in this historical novel set during the Crimean War. Mariella Lingwood is a proper Victorian young lady. She is in love with a distant cousin and well-respected surgeon, Henry Thewell. But the relationship changes when Mariella's dear first cousin Rosa enters the picture. Henry and Rosa are in the Crimea as a surgeon and a nurse, respectively, and Henry falls ill and is sent to Italy to recover. When Mariella rushes to his side, it is Rosa's name he raves in his delirium. And when Rosa is reported missing, Mariella does something unexpected. She travels to the front lines of battle to search for her cousin and learn the truth. But in the midst of war, she finds chaos, which rattles the foundations of her existence, and Mariella must discover her strength and fight for what is truly important. McMahon's complex plot makes for an atypical but satisfying read, even if the ending feels a tad abrupt. Recommended for all fiction collections.
—Anna M. Nelson

Kirkus Reviews
An unusual and vivid historical novel tracks a feverish love triangle/mystery across the battlefields of the Crimean War. Freshness and energy drive McMahon's latest (The Alchemist's Daughter, 2006, etc.), which offers a socially alert tableau of mid-19th-century England as the background to an emotional drama, launched when Mariella Lingwood learns that her fiance, Dr. Henry Thewell, recently serving in the war against Russia, has fallen gravely ill. Mariella rushes to his side in Italy only to find him raving about her cousin Rosa, who had daringly joined the ranks of female nursing volunteers led by Florence Nightingale, tending the English soldiers fighting in Turkey as they suffered terribly from disease and fearful conditions. Rosa's war-front letters to Mariella have been almost as passionate in their avowals of commitment as Henry's, but has her cousin betrayed her after all? Mariella sets off for Constantinople to find Rosa and uncover the truth. McMahon depicts the battlefields as another shifting social panorama, this one shot with horror and corpses as well as issues of class and acceptable behavior. Here the story's momentum moves less dynamically, but over time Mariella, an unheroic heroine, learns to be of service, first to her sick servant, later to wounded soldiers. Still searching for her cousin, she falls in love with dashing Captain Max Stukeley and comes intuitively to understand Rosa's disappearance, while in the process awakening to a different sense of self. Marked by its passion and social commentary, this is a pleasingly unformulaic read, although its twin time frames and ending may not satisfy all readers. Agent: Mark Lucas/Lucas Alexander Whitley
From the Publisher
"A pleasingly unformulaic read." —-Kirkus
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425232224
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/2/2010
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,449,159
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Katharine McMahon is a historical novelist whose books include A Way Through the Woods and The Alchemist's Daughter.

British actress and narrator Josephine Bailey has won ten AudioFile Earphones Awards and a prestigious Audie Award, and Publishers Weekly named her Best Female Narrator in 2002.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 20, 2011

    Ended abruptly but still worth the read.

    Apparently this is a bestselling novel in the UK but it hasn't made it's mark here. For those of you who like 19th century romances, this is one for you. I was pleasantly surprised because there was a bit of mystery to it as well. I was a little disappointed in the ending because I wanted to see what happened to the characters afterward and felt like it ended pretty abruptly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    The Rose of Sebastopol ... nice read...

    I liked the characters-especially dealing with the era of the 1850's. Very moving and touching and you really feel for the main characters! If you like novels by Jane Austen- then you will like to read this novel but fair warning this is a more somber read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    terrific unusual Victorian romance

    During the Crimean War, surgeon Henry Thewell and nurse Rosa Longwood are serving in the combat zone. His fiancé and her cousin Mariella Lingwood remains in England worried about both of them especially with the letters from them in Turkey.

    When Henry becomes severely ill, he is rushed back to Italy for proper medical treatment. Upon learning of her fiancé's illness, Mariella rushes to be with him. However, she is greeted with the name of Rosa on his lips while he is delirious. Hearing that Rosa is missing; out of character for a prim and proper Victorian lady; Mariella heads to the front to find Rosa to learn the truth re the relationship between her cousin and her fiancé.

    Putting aside the abrupt forced climax, The Rose of Sebastopol is a terrific unusual Victorian romance with a strong look at conditions on the front during the mid nineteenth century Crimean War with Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade coming to mind. The jump back and forth in time needs some adjustment but worth the effort as the cast brings to life the era from the perspective of the war. Rosa appears to be a Florence Nightingale clone of sorts while Mariella is changed by what she observes first in Constantinople and later at the front as she realizes that Love is a Battlefield (Benatar).

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fatal Magnetism

    Mariella Lingwood and Rosa Barr seem like total opposites in personality, yet there's an alter ego quality readers will slowly begin to appreciate in these complex characters. Mariella thinks of Rosa as possessing "fatal magnetism," and Rosa finds peace in the stability and hidden courage waiting to emerge in her best friend, Mariella. The story begins innocently enough in Mariella's staid, peaceful home where Rosa and her companion, Nora, come to live after being banished by her late stepfather. Mariella is an expert seamstress who gradually is forced to accompany Rosa on her wild, adventurous journeys, to see the uglier side of English factories and their polluted environment where poor laborers are forced to reside. Rosa's goal is to become a nurse, a brave quest in light of the social constraints on such a profession for females in the mid-1800s. She initially attempts to engage Mariella's fiance, Henry Thewell, to teach her all she needs to learn, but her first impulsive, uninvited visit to watch an amputation surgery repulses him and that avenue seems doomed to failure. Romance evolves with several characters, sometimes with the most engaging, innocent progress and others with suggestions of most inappropriate character.

    The story builds to a crescendo when Henry and Rosa's brother, Max Stukeley leave for service in the Crimean War. While the press is reporting fabulous victories, Rosa realizes it is her mission to follow them into battle. Rejected by Florence Nightingale's group for lack of training and significant experience, Rosa decides to journey to Europe on her own and find a place for her "destiny." After a very short time, Mariella learns that Henry is very ill and travels to Italy to nurse and comfort him. Her initial visit is shocking in the extreme as she hears something she never would have imagined in a million years. Now Mariella has a new quest, to find Rosa. As she proceeds on this enigmatic search, she serves the British Army with her seamstress skills, keeping accounts of linens and supplies and finally is called to nurse wounded soldiers. The graphic descriptions within this novel of the casualties, deaths, disease and horrors of the British, French, Slovakian and Russian troops is realistically described, giving the reader a brutally honest picture of the Crimean War which gets very little coverage in present media accounts of notable historic battles. The author demonstrates considerable talent in the way she paces the conflicts and reactions to a crescendo. The ending of the novel leaves room for a follow-up as the reader learns what happens to only one of the many characters in dire straits by the last page turned.

    An international bestseller since its publication, The Rose of Sebastopol deserves broader publicity and appreciation for this moving account of a significant historical period and its celebration of love and purpose in characters who struggle against and surmount the barriers of social constraints in mid-19th century England and Europe.

    Very nicely done, Ms. McMahon!

    Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on June 13, 2009

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    UK

    Did you enjoy the book ?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2011

    huge disappointment

    extremely slow book, with an anticlimactic ending. i hated it.

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  • Posted May 26, 2011

    Hard to follow- not really a love story

    This book jumps around alot. It took me a while to get interested in the story line, because it kept changing. I don't think the love story was one between the main character and the two different men, so much as a (non-romantic) love story between her and her cousin Rosa. And the "love" story that was attempted was weak and lacking. I was not a fan of any of the characters, I felt they were underdeveloped. I couldn't get attached to any of them.

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    Posted November 2, 2012

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