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Interned by Pamela Rushby

Title: Interned

A girl in a dress with two suitcases stands on a dirt road looking at two houses. Interned by Pamela Rushby

Author: Pamela Rushby

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Walker Books

Published: 2nd March 2022

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: Based on true events, Interned is a moving, well-researched and evocative historical fiction novel that highlights an often forgotten moment in Australian history.

It’s 1914. Gretta lives a privileged life in Singapore, the daughter of a businessman; Tilly lives a modest life in Brisbane, the daughter of a baker. When war breaks out and both countries turn on their families for being German, the two girls find themselves taken from their homes, interned at a camp in rural New South Wales. Far away from everything they have ever known, Gretta and Tilly are forced to face prejudice, overcome adversity and to make their own community.

  • Pamela Rushby is an award-winning author of over 200 books including The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle.
  • This is a thoroughly researched historical fiction novel, based on the Berrima Internment Camp in New South Wales.
  • Perfectly tied into the HASS curriculum for years 5 and 6.


1914 – World War One, or as it was known then, The Great War or The War to End All Wars, breaks out. Germans across Australia and the British Empire are rounded up and taken to internment camps – where they adhere to a curfew, but live in towns in the middle of nowhere. Two girls – Gretta from Singapore, and Tilly from Brisbane, are caught up in this. Gretta and her family are arrested and transported, sent far from their home in Singapore and must adapt to a new way of life, and Tilly, who has a German-born father, follows her father to rural NSW with her mother and brother, where they wait out the war with the rest of the German population that has been sent there.

Tilly and Gretta couldn’t be more different – Gretta has only ever known a life of privilege, where she has only ever had to speak German despite living in a British colony, and Tilly is the daughter of a baker and Australian through and through – she speaks English – and her parents both embrace that world. Yet when things change and Tilly meets Gretta at Bornabba, and at first, they can’t stand each other – Gretta is adamant that Tilly should speak German, and should support Germany, and Tilly longs for peace, for the war to end in the Allies’ favour. Slowly though, the girls become friends and try to teach each other about their worlds and lives as they live in the internment camp throughout the war, and find a sense of community and self – but will they ever be reunited with the homes they once knew?

Based on true stories and interesting history about what happened beyond the battlefields of World War One, Interned looks at the journey of two young girls with similar backgrounds yet very different experiences and upbringings that inform how they respond to their situation and the war far away but the very real, very harsh sentiments at home. Some of what happens in the books mirror things happening today and throughout history with imprisoning people for being part of a certain group or seeking asylum, and touches on the Spanish Flu towards the end of the book. The story does not shy away from the realities of what happened yet makes it accessible for readers aged eleven and older, in ways that can be used with the curriculum and to open discussions about wider wartime experiences beyond the battlefields that often dominate history books.

Seeing the war and internment camps through the eyes of two young girls shows that there were so many people affected, and so many untold stories that books are revealing these days, because they’re often the stories of those who were not involved in the battles. Novels like this also bring history to life and ensure that the stories that were once hidden or only known by a few, or at the very least, not well-known, are now becoming known. Historical fiction gives light and life to these voices and experiences and allows us to see history in a variety of different ways, from different perspectives, and through different experiences. This makes the study of history richer and allows us to appreciate a wider story, a wider history that involves more than just what the winners wrote and achieved, and gives a human face to those who were discriminated against based on something they could not control, and should serve as a reminder to us all that we shouldn’t be acting in these ways still – that we shouldn’t let our preconceptions colour how we view other people.

It will be a great tie-in for history, literature, and social studies courses and units, and overall, is a fascinating and touching read that reveals how our humanity and experiences shape us.

2 thoughts on “Interned by Pamela Rushby”

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