Monday, 1 March 2010

In Flander's Fields

A Rose for the ANZAC Boys

I've just finished this book in pretty much one sitting and it has me an emotional wreck.

It starts in modern times with a young lad being mildly embarrassed at a Service of Remembrance as he has push his deaf great grandfather in a wheelchair, he can't understand why the service is so important, and he can't understand why his 'Pa' is making him take part - the war was years ago after all.

The plot then goes back in time to 1915 and we meet the three heroines of the book, Midge, Ethel and Anne at their school. All three are itching to do more for the war effort and when one of the girls receives a telegram stating that a loved one is missing in action they decide to do something about it. Ethel's father is a grocer he supplies the girls with all they need to set up a canteen, in France, for the troops.

All three girls have different reasons for their actions but it is Colonial Midge that we follow the most and throughout the book her bemusement, bravery and determination shine through, right down to her last brave decision.

This is a work of fiction, but the author is very clear to state that although none of these characters existed all of their adventures did happen to real people. I have read many books about World War One, fiction and non, but this just leaves many of them in the dust. I cried from about half way through and wasn't surprised to read in the afterword that Jackie French had found this the hardest of her books to write. It is incredible.

It tells a well rounded story of war, it touches on other topics such as the Suffragettes and the problems of Empire, but ultimately it is about how pointless the slaughter of the trenches was - bit how important it was at the time. French's afterword and glossary really adds to the book and I love the recipe for ANZAC cookies that is included here.

The ANZAC point of view made a nice difference to the topic, and the importance of the Australian and New Zealand contribution should not be overlooked.

This really should become a must read for anyone who like historical fiction.