Keneally's latest novel, The Daughters of Mars, is a big and brutal book, a new prism through which to think about World War I. Keneally draws you in and pins you in as the Durance sisters and their fellow nurses face the full gamut of war, from Gallipoli up to the Western Front. The description of a torpedo attack and its aftermath - who survives, who concedes, the ebb and flow of endurance, and the utter randomness of the whole damn thing - is breathtaking and exhausting. And in its image of people broken down beyond their individual selves, their minds and memories transposable, lies the seed for the magnificent and almost magical sleight of the novel's end. The breadth and accretion of all this is dazzling, matched - and sometimes superseded - by the perfection of the intimate gestures and internal moments through which he vivifies his young women. What grief looks like as it works across somebody's lips; how human touch feels to someone more used to swabbing and stitching.
Ashley Hay, The Australian
the huge talents of Thomas Keneally are everywhere on display.
Jay Parini, The Guardian
Keneally’s traditional qualities of scrupulous historical research, thumping storytelling and sympathy for the suffering are all there. This time, though, they’re combined with phrasemaking of such powerful resonance that the result is something few other authors would aim for, let alone achieve: genuine grandeur. Keneally has long been interested in how Australians, tucked away blamelessly at the bottom of the world, have often found themselves at the dark centre of European history. And of course too, seeing it through the entirely unprepared eyes of these young women is one of the ways in which he restores the war’s essential strangeness. Meanwhile, however broad the historical themes become, Keneally never loses sight of the individual members of his increasingly huge cast, treating the themes of family and friendship with the same mixture of quiet seriousness and page-turning brio as he tackles the war. By my calculation, he also manages to serve up at least seven wholly convincing love stories.
James Walton, The Telegraph (UK)