This is the second time I've read this and I enjoyed it even more than the first. At first, you have very little sympathy for the maleable Mariella, who seems to lack any personality or any desire other than to sew her way complacently through life. I wanted to give her a good shake. Her cousin Rosa by comparison is vibrant and instantly likeable. And yet very slowly and subtly your empathies switch. Rosa is selfish, overbearing, and Mariella is repressed, you wonder what she will do if she'll just loosen her tightly-laced corsets a little. And that's what circumstances make her do.
I loved this. The ending was not at all clear cut and those who like all ther t's crossed will find fault with it, but the imagery of the last scene was so stark and vivid I didn't think you needed any more. The atmosphere in the Crimea was horrific and vividly drawn, the pointlessness of the war, the tragedy of the needless suffering made me angry and at the same time fascinated. And the exploding of the myths around Nightingale, Cardigan and the Charge of the Light Brigade were so subtly done that you had no cause to question them.
I would highly recommend this, and I'm very surprised it hasn't been turned into a film, it would make an excellent one.
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