Friday 24 May 2013

Review: In Falling Snow By Mary-Rose MacColl

In Falling Snow tells the story of two amazing women: Iris, who travels from Australia to France during World War I to bring her little brother home, and ends up helping to run a hospital in Royaumont Abbey that’s fully staffed by women (including the doctors); and Grace, Iris’ granddaughter, who as a doctor in 1970s Australia is still facing the same kind of sexism her grandmother’s co-workers experienced decades earlier.

It was the WWI aspect that initially drew me to In Falling Snow, and the story of Royaumont Abbey is a fascinating one. Although Iris is an invention, many of the characters are based on real people and Royaumont really was an all-female WWI hospital. The tenacity and bravery of those women is absolutely awe-inspiring. Still, while I admired the idea of Royaumont, I did find some parts of the chapters set there a little slow. The little details about how the place worked were interesting but distracted from the overall story for me. Iris herself was a bit hard to connect with as a young woman, as she seemed quite reserved, but I felt for her as an ailing old woman looking back on her life. As the story progressed and I gained further insight into her character I admired her all the more and understood why she was telling her story in this way.

Unexpectedly, although they weren’t what interested me to begin with, I found myself falling in love with Grace’s chapters and growing impatient to get to them. Even though it was still set 30-40 years ago, it was a more recognisable setting and a situation not too far removed from what women still face today (unfortunately). Grace’s struggle to balance work and family, especially when things went wrong, is one I think many women can connect with. I don’t currently have kids, but the tension between wanting a career and wanting to take care of a family is something that already plays across my mind. I can only image how tough it is for women actually doing it. While In Falling Snow shows how far we’ve come, at the same time it also reveals how little has really changed.

There’s a few twists in this book which I saw coming but I don’t want to spoil them for others. Even though I predicted what would happen, the story was still compelling to me. It’s quite an emotional journey, as you’d probably expect from a generation-spanning war tale. The setting of WWI France is beautifully rendered, and I really, really want to visit Royaumont now. Overall this is a gorgeous book; I definitely recommend it for fans of historical fiction.

Rating: 4/5

-Fascinating photographs and footage of the real women of Royaumont.
-Author Mary-Rose MacColl discusses writing the novel.

Fine Print
Published: 2013, Allison & Busby
Source: I was provided with a review copy of this book from The Book Depository in exchange for an honest review, as part of their affiliate program.
Get It: The Book Depository (Belle's Bookshelf affiliate)


  1. I requested this from the library too after Shelleyrae mentioned it during #spbkchat the other week!

    1. Would love to know what you think of it!

  2. Fab review Belle! I don't read many historical fictions, but when I hear of good ones I always like to give them a go and this sounds fantastic. I'm looking forward to checking this out. :)

    1. Thanks Michelle! This is definitely a unique perspective on an important aspect of our history - and just a good book :)