Book Review: 1915 Wounds of War, by Diana Menefy


Available at bookstores nationwide.

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
ISBN 9781775432746

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Book Review: Roly the Anzac Donkey, written by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Available in bookstores nationwide.

cv_roly_the_anzac_donkeyRoly (Roland) is a donkey who was born on a farm in a village in Greece. When he was one year old a soldier from the British Army came and took a group of donkeys to use during the First World War. They were taken by ship to Gallipoli, in Turkey, where the British Army and other allied forces were fighting the Turkish army. These donkeys were used to carry water to the soldiers who were fighting in the hills, and the drivers worked their donkeys hard, while bullets and artillery shells were flying around them.

One day Roly stumbled and spilled some of the water he was carrying. His driver beat him for it and other transgressions, so Roly decided he would try to escape. When the right opportunity came, he ran for his life. Roly wandered around for the rest of the day. He became cold, tired and hungry, with only a bit of grass to eat; and he missed his friends.

The next day he started to walk back to where he had last left his driver the previous day, knowing full well that he would probably beat him for running away. Coming towards him was a tall soldier with a biscuit with jam on it, in his hand. He stroked Roly’s back and said “you’re just what I need, but I’ll need to fatten you up first”. This was the start of a friendship between the donkey, Roly and the New Zealand soldier Richard Alexander Henderson, a solider with the New Zealand Field Ambulance. The Field Ambulance service moved sick and wounded soldiers from the trenches to the beach at Anzac Cove. From there the soldiers could be taken to a hospital ship.

This story is an amazing story of a real New Zealand soldier and the donkey he discovers wandering, hungry, on a Gallipoli road. They save many lives, but when the time comes for the soldiers to leave, a heartbreaking decision has to be made over the future of the donkey. Where does Richard go to find Roly a good home, with kind people?

I read this story to my 4-year-old granddaughter Abby. At this age, they have no concept of war, or what a soldier is. I found it quite challenging to try and explain to her in simple terms, but I think I managed to convey to her the basic concept.

I loved the fact that this story was based on a true story of a friendship between a soldier and a donkey. The illustrations by Jenny Cooper are beautiful. Abby loved Roly’s beautiful big brown eyes with the long eye lashes and his long ears.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Roly the Anzac Donkey
Written by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN  9780143506638

Book Review: Anzac: Photographs, by Laurence Aberhart


ANZAC: Photographs by Laurence Aberhart has been published to coincide with a major touring exhibition by Dunedin Public Art Gallery, and with the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. Aberhart is one of New Zealand’s most recognised and admired photographers, and his photographs have been exhibited in New Zealand and internationally including major solo exhibitions in Amsterdam, Melbourne, Wellington, and Dunedin.

Photographing almost solely in black and white, and using traditional darkroom processing, Aberhart uses his technical expertise to create images with a strong sense of stillness and light. Many of his series document the effects of time and urbanisation on the buildings and culture of small town New Zealand, but he has also created work about Antarctica, museology, and the Southern USA. As Aberhart stated, ‘I’m trying to make, in as gentle a way as possible, people in our society look at stuff in the social landscape.’

Aberhart has been photographing ANZAC war memorials throughout his career. The seventy photographs that appear in ANZAC were taken between 1980 and 2013, and document memorials in both New Zealand and Australia that were built to honour those who were killed in the Great War of 1914–1918.

The full page photographs are grouped into sections, based on the inscriptions that appear on the memorials: The Great War, Lest We Forget, Roll of Honour, ANZAC, The Glorious Dead, Their Name Liveth, and In Memory. In the introduction, historian Jock Phillips explains that the memorials were some of the first in New Zealand. Their erection created a sense of national pride and a grounding of public spaces, but were also expressions of private grief and experience. The memorials, usually a lone soldier standing on top of an obelisk, served as a place where families could grieve for loved ones buried on the other side of the world.


Laurence Aberhart at the launch of his Anzac collection, Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Aberhart’s startling and beautiful photographs show how a “slow loss of community consciousness” have changed these memorials. Over the last 100 years they have became forgotten objects, often lost in the process of urban change. Some memorials are squashed in the middle of a main street roundabout, whereas others become the fronts for schools or public toilets. As Phillips states, the soldiers “stare aimlessly into the distance, ignored, slightly sad, timeless, peculiarly inactive … the overwhelming sense is of figures who have been forgotten.” Apart from the odd passer-by, there are no people in these photographs. Trees grow up around the memorials and shadows fall across the men’s faces. One photograph is taken from the back of the memorial so we see the soldier’s view: the empty countryside spreads out before him.

There is nothing quite like an original silver gelatin print. Seen in person, Aberhart’s photographs have a quiet intensity. They are like rectangles of light on the gallery wall. The reproductions in ANZAC have managed to capture the depth and subtleties of the silvery greys. Most of us live in a town with an ANZAC memorial. They are ubiquitous and hidden, part of our daily lives and national identity. The effect of page after page of memorials is that of reminder through repetition. Aberhart allows us to see them once again.

Reviewed by Sarah Jane Barnett

ANZAC: Photographs
by Laurence Aberhart
Introduction by Jock Phillips.
Published by Victoria University Press & Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 2014
108 pp. Hardback with dustjacket.
ISBN 9780864739339