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To some Kate Marsden (1859-1931) was an unsung female pioneer, a nurse who was so committed to eliminating leprosy that she travelled thousands of miles to investigate the disease in Siberia with the support of the Russian royal family. To others she was a fraudster who exaggerated her Siberian undertaking, a woman motivated by fame and a need to atone herself for illicit relations with a woman. This novel sees Marsden at the end of her life, haunted by fragmented memories. For Marsden, memory is “not a neatly packed trunk through which you may sift for items of interest. It is an unravelled ball of wool, tangled and confused.” Marsden’s account of her life here is indeed tangled and complex, poignant and fraught with disappointment. The flower she thinks holds leprosy-curing properties turns out to be “a soothing balm perhaps, but not the miracle I had been led to believe”. And then there’s her all-consuming love for Rose, whom she tries to protect: ”There’s no place in this world for us, you know that. We are judged and found unacceptable.” Part illuminating ode to an unsung heroine, part thought-provoking exploration of the nature of memory and legacy, this is a unique and captivating novel, and I am grateful to the author for evoking Kate Marsden’s story with such verve and tenderness.