Book review: The Rose of Sebastopol


How is it going?  It was my 24th birthday yesterday, and I spent all night telling everyone I was turning 19, and every single one believed me… I got home at 6AM, so proud of having FINALLY achieved a true Salamanca fiesta but my roomie laughed at me for about 30 minutes because this could NOT be the longest night of my life for sure…

Anyway, back to the point, the last book that I read, book that I love just the same everytime I read it: The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon.

The Rose of Sebastopol - Katharine MCMahon

The Rose of Sebastopol – Katharine MCMahon

One of these books that I randomly picked in a bookstore for the gorgeousness of its cover, not having a single clue about the author or story… Sebastopol drew my attention as well, for some reason I find it one of the most beautiful name a city can hold.

The story takes place during the Crimean War, seen from the English side (apparently, it seemed we were allied with the English on that particular war. Should it be a hint as why I have never ever heard of it in any history class that I’ve had?). The whole book is about a friendship between two girls of complete opposite personalities, and that’s what fascinates me.

Rosa, she is the centerpiece of this whole story, we’ll spend the entire book looking frantically for her with Mariella, however, we will never have the chance to meet her. Everybody knows Rosa, the name runs on every mouth, from Balaklava to Sebastopol, English soldiers, Russian soldiers just alike. Mariella will reveal little by little who Rosa is, through memories of their childhood, until the very last chapter where I believe is the clue on why Rosa’s like this.

I love that the story is not chronological, the pieces of the puzzle come in disorder and slowly will take shape. As if Mariella could not hold either the harshness of her reality or the heartbreaks of her memories. I always have a thing for friendship stories, probably more than love stories. Love, it falls on you without leaving you a choice, and it will leave just the same. Friendship, you build it, you earn it and it never fades. When Rosa disappears, what is left for Mariella?  The pain of missing someone, it comes in waves, it rushes in your veins till your heart. Entire period of time you’ll go on with your life as if nothing, and when you stopped expecting it, it will hit you so hard, the memories as vivid as flesh, the aching and longing will start all over again.

The whole war background is quite interesting as well. For instance, the story of this troop of nurse who decided to go all the way to the front to try and save what could be saved is fascinating. The evolution of medecine and the vision of women in society are as many subjects you will find, quite different from what I would expect from this kind of books.

My favorite quotes: “Mariella, don’t love me. I’m worthless. And I won’t be coming back. Look at the state of me. Dear God, the state of me (…) Mariella, I can’t keep my promises. Forgive me” Henry to Mariella

“Sometimes, I am terrified by your utter faithfullness. You humble me. I know in my bones, you will be loyal to your dying day” Henry to Mariella

“Rosa, where are you? (…) Instead I was faced at last by her complete absence” Mariella

“I have come to the end of this world, and this is a bitter end (…) I discovered that I couldn’t stand my own kind any longer (…) All I am is a hand to hold while a man dies. (…) It’s too late Mariella, I reach out my hand, I listen for your voice and I can’t find you. (…) But for a while longer, I will exist, I think, in each of your immaculate stiches” Rosa

I hope you are all  having a good week end. As for my daily weather update, it was hailing between two showers yesterday, and today we have reached 6 degrees. Yes, I live in Spain.




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