Books reviews: The Daughters Of Mars, The House Of Memories, Elephant Moon

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The Daughters Of Mars

Thomas Keneally

Acclaimed and prolific Australian author and 
essayist Thomas Keneally presents his 29th novel, The Daughters Of Mars.

The four-time Man Booker-shortlisted writer was also the mind behind Schindler’s Ark, the book that was subsequently made into Oscar-winning Schindler’s List.

His latest book continues with a wartime setting, providing us with a story both grandiose in scale and searingly intimate.

During the First World War, two sisters escape their father’s dairy farm near Sydney, Australia, along with the dark and guilty secret they shared there.

Becoming nurses in the Dardanelles, the Durance sisters experience the unrestricted horrors of the conflict, but they are inspired by strong, extraordinary women, and forge a bond they couldn’t have previously imagined.

Both sisters fall in love, with their future happiness and survival resting on the whims of fate.

Vivid and intelligent, engrossing and moving, The Daughters Of Mars provides a stunning, unflinching vision of the First World War.

Sceptre, hardback £18.99

The House Of Memories

Monica McInerney

Perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a parent is the death of a child. When Australian editor Ella O’Hanlon’s toddler son dies, she runs away from her husband Aidan and her family and goes to live with her British uncle Lucas at his house in London.

The house is full of memories for Ella, as it was here she first bonded with her uncle over their shared surname Fox and where she met her Irish husband.

Monica McInerney’s book is an engaging novel, although as Ella recounts long swathes of her past, it sometimes verges on the kind of round-robin letter from a friend you only half-read.

Macmillan, paperback £12.99

Elephant Moon

John Sweeney

Author and investigative journalist John Sweeney turns his attention to the plight of Burmese refugees during the Second World War in this rich historical novel.

As the Japanese gain ground in Asia, Rangoon-based teacher Grace desperately tries to save a class of schoolchildren by fleeing to India, but their journey is wrought with danger.

Getting by on the mercies of strangers, they get to the north of Burma with the Japanese hot on their heels, and just when all seems lost, they are picked up by the Number One Elephant Company.

But the Japanese soldiers pursuing them over the mountains to India aren’t the only threat to the refugees.

Sweeney delivers a Second World War story from a unique point of view, offering a deftly realised on-the-road novel alive with the horrors of war.

It’s a solid read for people who like an adventure.

Silvertail Books, hardback £18.99 (ebook, £9.99)

Alan Bennett.

Leeds’s own Alan Bennett urges public funding of ‘indispensable’ libraries