Sunday, 13 June 2010

Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon

So Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon, one of the many books that went on holiday with me this year. Working in three time periods, going down to two when two of them join together and based during and just before the Crimean War, it follows Mariella, her fiance Henry and her cousin Rosa.
There are three time periods that are followed, Mariella's childhood, the time just before the war and the time during the war, eventually these second two meet and you're only following two time lines. Mariella is a traditionally reserved and quiet young lady who spends most of her life sewing, her cousin Rosa is the opposite and seems to go out of her way to be shocking, Henry I found quite difficult to get a handle on, so I'll refrain from making any real comments about his personailty.
The book opens with Mariella travelling to Italy to visit Henry who has become ill being the war and been sent there to recover. Once there he seems not to recognise her and instead raves about her cousin Rosa, leading Mariella to believe that he may have fallen in love with her (this is the first chapter, I'm not giving any of the plot away) and the plot follows Mariella's decision on how to deal with this and what it leads her to do. The story of her childhood is 'simply' that of how she met Rosa and Henry and her developing relationship with each of them. The childhood sections especially are not always in chronological order and you can be left piecing together what goes where.

My opinion? Divided! I enjoyed the first half, but found my interest waining and kept picking up the other book I was reading instead of this, especially in the last few chapters I found myself skim reading simply to find out what was happening and to get to the end as opposed to actually wanting to know. It has to be said that, without saying what happened, I found the ending singularly unfulfilling, almost like McMahon wasn't really sure what she wanted to do with the end of so just stopped writing one day and sent it to her publisher.

As I say I lost interest half way through, and I think that's because I stopped caring about the characters, I didn't like Henry and I can't really put my finger on why, I just couldn't bring myself to be interested in him. I couldn't bring myself to like Rosa either, and normally she's the sort of character that I would quite enjoy reading about but, partially because I found her quite selfish and partially because we're seeing her through Mariella's eyes who, while she may love her doesn't always approve of her behaviour, I couldn't bring myself to warm to her. Mariella I did quite like, and I found her dedication to her sewing quite endearing but when she was the only one of the main characters that I really warmed to then it wasn't enough to keep me reading on.

Finally, there was a section about Rosa's step father that I personally thought was unnecessary, it didn't seem to add anything to the book that I could see and I don't really understand why it was included.

I've been very negative about this, that's not to say that there weren't some things that I didn't enjoy about it, but it wasn't enough to make me look upon this particularly favourably and I don't think I'll be hurrying out to read anything else by McMahon

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