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This is the second in a series of books released by Scholastic, and named Kiwis at War, that I have read and reviewed. The series is scheduled to be released one year at a time to coincide with the 100 year commemorations of World War I. The subtitle of this book, Wounds of War, is particularly appropriate.
The main characters are two New Zealand nurses, Mel and Harriet, who volunteer alongside their brothers. Mel and Harriet are also cousins. I like the way that the author makes the transition from excited young people embarking on the first OE, to the reality of entering and working in a war zone. The girls are caring for a continual river of wounded young men, many of them kiwis, who are replaced as quickly as they are able to hobble away. The wounds that are inflicted are both real and metaphorical.
It makes sense that your best friends are your siblings and cousins, given that you grow up spending more time with them than any others, so when you witness the injuries and receive news of their death, the impact is understandably difficult. Diana Menefy has written a compelling and emotional account of the atrocities inflicted at, and the deep sadness resulting from the ANZAC fighting in Gallipoli. There are some high points to leaven the sadness – young people falling in love, dancing with wounded soldiers, and the inner turmoil of young woman waiting for a potential boyfriend to write to her. I’m sure the emotional upheavals of teens are no different now, although more immediate through texting. The year, and book, ends with the first ANZAC day commemorations in 1916.
Menefy also touches on what many now would describe as a pointless waste of young life. The soldiers remark on the inequalities in the trenches and the, sometimes, unfathomable decisions of their commanding officers. While it doesn’t matter in a work of fiction, I’m not sure how authentic this is, or indeed whether the young men at the time understood the futility of their fight. It is likely that at least one young man dared to question the authorities, and I think that this viewpoint is particularly important for young readers. Young people of today need to understand the sacrifices that were made by ANZAC soldiers. I’m only personally starting to understand that the ANZACs might not have been in the right place, after all.
This is a very enjoyable story that takes readers on a journey through this year in history through the eyes of these New Zealand nurses, sharing the ups and downs, seesEurope through their eyes and experiences their losses. The wounds of war are indeed immense, but not forgotten.
Reviewed by Gillian Torckler
1915 Wounds of War
by Diana Menefy
Published by Scholastic NZ