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The Rose Of Sebastopol [Hardcover]

Katharine McMahon
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 July 2007

Russia, 1854: the Crimean War grinds on, and as the bitter winter draws near, the battlefield hospitals fill with dying men. In defiance of Florence Nightingale, Rosa Barr - young, headstrong and beautiful - travels to Balaklava, determined to save as many of the wounded as she can.

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 Henry, her fiancé, 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 their arrival at his lodgings, she and her maid make a heartbreaking discovery: Rosa has disappeared.

Following the trail of her elusive and captivating 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 her quest leads her deeper into the dark heart of the conflict, Mariella's ordered world begins to crumble and she finds she has much to learn about secrecy, faithfulness and love. But, in the thick of a war fought on more fronts than one, she also discovers a strength and passion she never knew she possessed.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (12 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029785092X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297850922
  • Product Dimensions: 3.4 x 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,196,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Katharine McMahon is the author of 8 novels, including the bestselling The Rose of Sebastopol, which was a Richard and Judy pick for 2007. She's always combined writing with some form of teaching - English and Drama in secondary schools, mentoring through the Arts Council Escalator scheme, or as a fellow of the Royal Literary Fund, supporting students in their writing. Her great love, beyond writing books, is the stage - both as a member of the audience and performing in her local theatre. She lives with her family in Hertfordshire.

Visit Katharine's official website at
She also has a blog at
Find Katharine McMahon on twitter @McKatharine

Product Description


I loved everything about this book. With a cracking plot, wide in scope and yet exquisitely detailed, it conveys the world of England in the 1850s .... her best so far (Sally Zigmond HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW)

I was fully immersed in my reading and bitterly disappointed when it ended. (Sue Magee THE BOOK BAG)

'This is everyting a good historical romance should be. (THE GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

Book Description

From the author of 'The Alchemist's Daughter': a story of love, secrecy and courage, set against the backdrop of the Crimean war.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read but disappointing ending. 28 Jan 2008
I thought this was a much better book than her last 'The Alchemist's Daughter'. I really enjoyed reading this - it was a great story with good characterisation and sense of place. I don't know much about the Crimea war but the historical settings and facts all appeared to be well researched and also well explained without being too political. I found this a very easy book to get into and got lost in its pages while I was reading it. I did actually like Mariella as a character even though she isn't the type of protagonist that I would usually warm to.

Mariella goes to Sebastopol to visit her sick fiance, Dr Henry and also to try and find her missing cousin Rosa. The book jumps from past to present taking the reader through the build up of Mariella and Rosa's relationship to Mariella's search for her. Whereas I usually love the inconsistent time setting in books, I think this one would actually have benefitted more from a linear narrative. I think it would have built up a better understanding of the before and after Mariella. However, the story was still beautifully told and a joy to read. The only let down was the ending which was such a shame because, for me, it really ruined the book. There was so much possibility for the ending that it just felt to me that the author just gave up on her story which was really upsetting. However, the book is still a great read and i would recommend it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Not my ususal choice of book to read, but heard it had good reviews. Great historical aspect of past times and characters. Good story, whilst i felt it quite predictable in places, but this may have part of the story to demonstrate the niavety of the main character. Disappointing ending fell flat. Worth a read for the historical aspect, but would not read a sequel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 16 July 2009
I'm a big fan of historical fiction, and was looking forward to this unusual setting, but like some other reviewers I'm afraid I couldn't connect with any of these characters. Just when I thought the story was going to "pick-up" it went flat again. Won't be rushing to read any more of this author's books - sorry.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great War Writing, Cliched Characters 2 Jun 2008
The historical aspects of The Rose of Sebastopol are excellent. The horror of trench warfare and the inadequacy of the battlefield hospitals are effectively portrayed and not for the squeamish. McMahon also conveys the pigheadness of the British male in the mid nineteenth century very well. The contempt with which women were held in Victorian England comes through strongly and the sections that deal with their attempts at emancipation are some of the best in the novel.

Sadly, the story doesn't live up to the richness of the background in which it's set. The characters are cliched, bland and two dimensional and although the action and plot do drive the reader towards the end, the denouement is predictable in almost every respect. In addition, at the end, the whole thing suddenly grinds to a halt in a most unsatisfactory manner.

On balance, The Rose of Sebastopol is a solid 3 star novel. The story although told well, won't deliver anything you haven't read before but the vivid depiction of the period and the affecting war scenes rescue this novel and render it a worthwhile read.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning 4 Feb 2008
I have just finished this book and I wish I was picking it up for the first time. I was hooked from start to finish with this moving and compelling tale of self-discovery, friendship, love and war. The characters are involving, the English and battle landscapes tautly drawn and I found myself mourning the loss of reading this book for the first time.
In the beginning timid Mariella and her fiery cousin Rosa could not be more different in character even though the facial similarity between the two is often remarked upon. However, their respective journeys to and in the Crimea and their relationships with the other characters alter one of them in particular and following her journey of self-discovery is a very rewarding one.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A shimmering mirage 2 Feb 2008
The Rose of Sebastapol isn't the straightforward historical novel it first appears to be, just as the relationships among the lead characters, and indeed the nature of the characters themselves, aren't what they first appear to be. The result is an engrossing adventure set against the rarely written-about Crimean War entwined with a mystery and wrapped around a coming-of-age, sexual-awakening tale. Adding even more complexity to the story is the unreliable narrative and the subtle yet evocative details. After finishing the book, I almost immediately began leafing through it again, seeing certain scenes in a new light, just as the protagonist had.
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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting historical novel 12 Jan 2008
Admittedly it took me quite a while to get into the flow of the book, but once that happened i was engrossed. The Crimean war is a period of history that i really didnt know alot of, except for Florence Nightingale. The story is told by Mariella, a young women who has grown up in London, without actually seeing any of London. She has lead a very sheltered life, that is until her delightful cousin Rosa descends from the North and lives with Mariella and her family. I loved the contrast of stern and innocent Mariella and Rosa who just wants to help every individual that comes across her path. In the middle of this, is Henry Thewall, Mariella's fiancee who is a doctor and working in the Crimea. Rosa leaves London to nurse in the Crimea, her letters detailing the horror and expressing how she cant seem to do enough to help the soldiers. Suddenly the letters from Rosa stop and no more is heard from her, worried about her cousin and her fiancee, Mariella leaves London to search for them. I really enjoyed the book, once Mariella had left London, discovering how strong she actually is without the people she loves around her. And again, its an interesting period in British history that is rarely written about.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars This for me has two parts.
This for me has two parts. The first was a struggle to read through as the M/C was annoying. The second was brilliant but I hated the fact the story ended so sharply... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Kath
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
This was our book club choice. Most unusual as all of us liked it. I read this a month she and I now have more understanding about what is happening in the news about Crimea.
Published 23 days ago by Rowan
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Historical Novel
Katharine McMahon moved from 'duel time' to purely historical narratives after her third novel. This, her sixth, is set during the 1840s and the Crimean War, in London, Derbyshire,... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Kate Hopkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Read!!!
I recommended this book to my book club and needed to re-read it. I enjoyed it just as much the second time as I did the first. It has everything.... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jean Andrew
3.0 out of 5 stars Good holiday read
Enjoyed this book, recommended by a friend, and I would look for others by the same author. Easy read enjoyable historical setting.
Published 10 months ago by Mrs. C. C. Stevens
4.0 out of 5 stars Good historical context
Loved the historical context and the characters felt so real. Well written, a good read.

I did feel that the title rather spoilt the mystery of where the missing Rose... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Anthony Acland
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, entertaining, educational.
A carefully constructed story with characters and events revealed bit by bit, maintaining interest and making this a very pleasant way to learn about life in the 1850s. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Forefeet
3.0 out of 5 stars Glad I read it, not sure I'd read another
Reviewers here seem pretty split between loving the characters or loving the detail of the plot. I fall into the latter. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Girl with a book
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Story
I enjoy reading historical fiction, especially that written in or set in the Victorian era. This novel did not disappoint. Read more
Published 18 months ago by K. Archibald
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome
This is NOT a bodice ripper. It's not chick-lit or anyone looking for a cheap, light quick read.

Its a book that acquaints one with the utter waste, horror and causality... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Goddess of Blah Book Reviews
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