Lost Roses

Lost Roses

Martha Hall Kelly

Penguin Books 2019

Martha Hall Kelly’s Lost Roses is a historical fiction which follows the chain of events up-to and following the fall of imperialism and the rise of Boshevism in Russia across World War I. Set across three continents and following the stories of four different women, Hall Kelly weaves a tale of resourcefulness, the power of friendship, and humanity.

Fictional Russians Sofya and Luba Steshnayva, together with a fortune-teller’s daughter, Varinka, and history’s Eliza Ferriday come together throughout the novel to show the strength of female friendships, particularly those that survive across continents.

Eliza Ferriday and Sofya Streshnayva are fast friends keeping a daily correspondence, even during wartime. The pair face a number of challenges in their day-to-day lives, only made worse by the conflict. For Eliza these challenges are taming her wilful daughter and mourning the loss of her husband. For Sofya, the stakes are much higher. As one of Russia’s elite and a relation to the imperial family, Sofya must flee for her life abandoning all she holds dear: her father, her sister, and her young son who was kidnapped during the seizure of the family property.

As Russia descends into chaos, Eliza (like history’s Eliza Ferriday) begins the American Central Committee for Russian Relief, aiming to help the women and children who fled the violence of Russia to regain their lives. She becomes an ambassador for White Russians and finding the women work and accommodation.

Sofya and Luba Steshnayva are cousins to the Tsar and through these characters we see the greatness of the Tsar and later crumble. Hall Kelly reveals that much of Russian aristocracy were in abject denial of the rising threat of the Red Army.

An entirely fictional character, Varinka embodies the desperation of the serfs during this time. A village outcast and in the care of her father’s murderer, Varinka and her unwell mother are completely destitute. When Varinka finds work at one of the rich country estates as a Nanny, she takes to the baby straight away, doting upon Maxwell in a way that verges on obsessive. Not quite a villain but certainly no hero, Varinka embodies the complex nature of humanity, portraying both great good, and great evil while simply trying to survive.

Lost Roses is a novel which asks us to interrogate what it means to be human. With history as our teacher and with fiction being a way to explore it, Hall Kelly shows good and evil side-by-side within a range of characters and situations. I would recommend Lost Roses to anyone with an interest in historic fiction, Russia, and the Russian Revolution.

4/5 Stars

Words by Kayla Gaskell

‘Occupation’- By Cameron Lowe

Happy Valley, British Hong Kong, December, 1941-

Malcolm’s jaw drops as he watches the troops march towards the racecourse. As dirty boots trample over the torn Union Jack on the street a dagger of unease strikes him. It’s over; eighteen days of intense fighting by the Commonwealth forces has ended in failure.

What do you think will happen to us?’

Malcolm turns around. His partner, Linh, is lying on the bed, rubbing her swelling belly. Her skin has paled and her breathing is long and deep.

I don’t know,’ he says. ‘If it’s anything like what happened on Blue Pool Road the other day, then we’re stuffed.’ I’m a bloody idiot, he thought. We should’ve gotten on the last ship down to Sydney, no matter what my family and people back home would’ve said about me and Linh.

Where will we go?’

Malcolm shakes his head. ‘I don’t know. The closest major British outpost to us right now is Singapore, but with what’s going on over in Malaya right now, it’ll fall before we get there, if we can.’

He lets out a sigh. There is no way out. The people he trusted to protect them have failed. How could they, the British Empire, fail?

His eyes glance over the skyline of the City of Victoria, observing the buildings damaged from the bombardments from Kowloon over the last couple of weeks. Barely a month ago it was the pearl of the Orient and part of the British Empire. Now, it’s nothing more than just another occupied territory of this new, expanding Japanese Empire.

Mal, what are we going to do?’

Linh’s voice draws him away from the window. Tears are running down her cheeks as she tries to get up. He grabs her and wraps his arms around her. ‘I wish I knew, Linh. By God, I wish I knew.’ If this is how they are then even home won’t stand a chance.

There are footsteps in the hallway outside the room. A metallic taste coats Malcolm’s tongue. The boots of soldiers. Japanese is being spoken and doors are being banged down. He kisses Linh as the sounds become louder.

I love you.’ Tears run down his cheeks as he brushes aside her shoulder length hair. ‘If they take me, I’ll find you, no matter how long it takes. Don’t lose hope.’

Their door bangs open. They steal him away from Linh, wrapping their hands around his arms. He spies the leader of this group, a middle-aged man with glasses and a moustache.

Name.’ the task force leader asks. They speak in English, but Malcolm can see they know very little of it, just from their accent.

He gulps and sniffles before replying. ‘Kerrigan. Malcolm Kerrigan.’





The task force leader speaks in Japanese to his soldiers. They grab him by the arms, still clutching their rifles.

What about my wife?’ Malcolm asks.

She be fine, as long as she follow Japanese way.’

Linh starts screaming as they drag Malcolm from the room. He can only predict they’ll be taking him to some sort of prison or concentration camp either here in Hong Kong, or somewhere in China. He doesn’t know much about being interned, but he knows it’ll be a version of Hell far worse than he could ever imagine.

Please don’t harm her, he thinks. He doesn’t care what happens to him. If it means Linh and the child will survive he’ll do anything his new leaders tell him.


Malcolm is woken from his slumber by someone shaking his shoulder. His eyes widen as he sees the outline of someone in the light of the Stanley Interment Camp. Heart thumping, he backs away.

Malcolm Kerrigan?’ The person asks, their voice low.

Who’s asking?’ Malcolm replies, also in a low voice.

Lee Chui Wan. I’m here to help you escape.’

Escape?’ Is he bloody looney? ‘Look mate, I’m not falling for this. People here have tried escaping and well, you know what happens.’

Lee shakes his head. ‘This isn’t a trick. Come, we must go.’

Malcolm continues to hesitate. ‘Who sent ya?’

His Majesty.’

King George?’ So the rumours from the other bankers are true. There really is a resistance here sympathetic to the British.

Lee nods. ‘Yes. Come, we must hurry.’

A metallic taste coats Malcolm’s tongue as he jumps from the bed. Whoever this Lee person is, he certainly seems to know a lot about breaking into Japanese internment camps. Cold sweat drips from him as he hears nearby men speaking in Japanese as they tiptoe the hallway.

Down here,’ Lee says. He opens a grate in the wall. ‘This is the way out.’

You’re bloody kidding me?’ He looks at the grate. Even if the camp diet of rice balls has turned him to skin and bone, he still wonders how he’ll get through here.

Hurry, before the guards come back.’

Wait, before I do, what of Linh?’

Lee looks to either side of the hallways, seeing lights approaching. He lets out a sigh. ‘She’s in Chungking with your son. She’s aiding the British Army in helping Commonwealth workers here. She sent for me to get you as well as others here.’

Son?’ God, I’m a father.

Yes. Now, we must hurry.’

Malcolm nods and gets himself down into wherever this place will lead him. As he does, he wonders how the hell they’re going to get from Hong Kong to Chungking through hundreds of kilometres of Japanese occupied territory. It won’t be easy, but it’ll certainly be worth it just to see Linh again and his son for the first time.

Words by Cameron Lowe

Art by Rhianna Carr


Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.


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