Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French (Miss Lily #1)

Miss Lily 1Title: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 27th March 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 524

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A tale of espionage, love and passionate heroism.

Inspired by true events, this is the story of how society’s ‘lovely ladies’ won a war.

Each year at secluded Shillings Hall, in the snow-crisped English countryside, the mysterious Miss Lily draws around her young women selected from Europe’s royal and most influential families. Her girls are taught how to captivate a man – and find a potential husband – at a dinner, in a salon, or at a grouse shoot, and in ways that would surprise outsiders. For in 1914, persuading and charming men is the only true power a woman has.

Sophie Higgs is the daughter of Australia’s king of corned beef and the only ‘colonial’ brought to Shillings Hall. Of all Miss Lily’s lovely ladies, however, she is also the only one who suspects Miss Lily’s true purpose.

As the chaos of war spreads, women across Europe shrug off etiquette. The lovely ladies and their less privileged sisters become the unacknowledged backbone of the war, creating hospitals, canteens and transport systems where bungling officials fail to cope. And when tens of thousands can die in a single day’s battle, Sophie must use the skills Miss Lily taught her to prevent war’s most devastating weapon yet.

But is Miss Lily heroine or traitor? And who, exactly, is she?

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseSophie Higgs lives in Australia at Thuringa, in 1913. Her father runs a corned beef empire, and Australian women have had the vote for eleven years, unlike the women in England, who are still fighting for suffrage. Sophie’s father sends her across the seas to Shillings, where, alongside women from the upper echelons of European society and royalty, Sophie will be taught by the mysterious Miss Lily about society, and how to behave at dinner, how to talk to men and captivate them, how to flatter them, and how to speak about topics that are said to be not right for a woman to know about. But Sophie is a bit of a challenge – the “colonial” who is outspoken and questions everything she is told. Miss Lily takes Sophie under her wing and sets about preparing her for a society life where she can fit in yet still be who she is. As 1914 inches towards war between Germany and England, Sophie must decide who she can trust. Emily, who has always been aloof and focussed? Or Hannelore, a German princess who is friendly but determined that Germany will win any war that breaks out on the continent. As war breaks out, and the Lovely Ladies head home or get married, Sophie is adrift, but determined to make a difference. With the Australians joining the call to duty and heading to Gallipoli, Sophie helps Alison turn her home into a hospital for injured soldiers. As soldiers die, and babies are born, Sophie is drawn further into the war, and across the seas to the battlefields of Ypres and Flanders, where she recounts her tale to a soldier out on the fields, before they head off the battlefields, where the war slowly wraps up, and Sophie finds herself looking to an uncertain future in the inter-war years.

In Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies, Jackie French does not shy away from the horrors of war or the expectations of pre-war Georgian society. The dangers are present, and spoken about, openly and in veiled terms. When Sophie speaks about the threat of war openly. it surprises many, but she finds some men who find relief in not having to curb their chit-chat too much. Like her other novels, Jackie French is telling the stories that have been silence, or relegated to the quieter corners of history, away from the victories of those on the battlefields. whose voices are always heard. The extensive research she has done to uncover these stories is exemplary, and shows just how deep Australian history is, and how much we often miss out on in history lessons.

Sophie’s story ends with a few threads dangling, as a good series does, leaving some mystery for the books to com. The power of friendship felt more important than the romance in this book, though both were present. The romance was woven throughout nicely, so it didn’t overpower what Sophie was trying to do in the war, or her relationship with Alison and the other Lovely Ladies. I had a delightful surprise to meet Midge MacPherson from A Rose for the Anzac Boys again, and I hope she’ll come back in the next book.

The friends that Sophie made throughout the war became important to her, unable to return home because of the threat of enemy attacks, she treasured those she became friends with. As it is a story about war, I felt the deaths and consequences were dealt with realistically and sympathetically, showing the changes in Sophie over the war that altered her perception of herself and the world. I thoroughly enjoyed Sophie’s journey and look forward to it continuing, as I did with Miss Matilda and the Matilda Saga.

An excellent addition to my Jackie French Library, and a great read for fans of the author and historical fiction.

This marks off another square in my book bingo, and will be included in my next post in two weeks time.

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Book Bingo Three: A book by someone over 60, a book by an author you’ve never read before.

 AWW-2018-badge-rose

In my third book bingo posts of the year, I have two books to report on – a book by an author I have never read before, and a book by someone over sixty. Both of these books have already been reviewed on my blog, so I have linked back to the longer reviews in this post.

oceans edgeSquare seven, a book by an author I have never read before has been filled by The Secret’s at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier, and it is Kali’s debut novel, and draws on family history and the geography of Western Australia to craft a story that is filled with ups and downs, and characters who are flawed and complex. It is a story about family, and sacrifice, and the lengths that some people will go to so they can protect family, and hide secrets that threaten those they care about. Set in the Great Depression, it shows a side to Australian history and life often not heard about in history books and draws on issues of Aboriginality and how the government defined this during the 1930s, injecting some of the hidden history not taught in schools into the novel. I enjoyed this debut, and hope Kali writes more.

My next square checked off is a book published by someone over 60. Eventual Poppy Day eventual poppy dayby Libby Hathorn (b 1943) fits into this square. Eventual Poppy ay is another story inspired by family history, in this case, a family link to the battlefields of World War One and what would become known as Remembrance Day and Anzac Day, where poppies would become the symbol of a generation lost to the ravages of war. It flicks between the story of Maurice in the war, and his great-great nephew in the twenty-first century, trying to find his place in the world. It is a moving story that gives a sense of what the war was like, the suffocating trenches and the feelings of helplessness during the stalemates.

Both of these were historical fiction as well, as I feel many of my books this year will be. Keep an eye out for my next post in two weeks time with more updates.

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Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen

OLMEC_B_SML.jpegTitle: Olmec Obituary

Author: L.J.M. Owen

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Echo

Published: August 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 342

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Archaeologist Dr Elizabeth Pimms thoroughly enjoys digging up old skeletons.

But when she is called home from Egypt after a family loss, she has to sacrifice her passions for the sake of those around her.

Attempting to settle into her new role as a librarian, while also missing her boyfriend, Elizabeth is distracted from her woes by a new mystery: a royal Olmec cemetery, discovered deep in the Mexican jungle, with a 3000-year-old ballplayer who just might be a woman.

She soon discovers there are more skeletons to deal with than those covered in dirt and dust.

Suitable for readers young and old, Olmec Obituary is the first novel in a delightful cosy crime series: Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth. Really cold cases.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseElizabeth is having the time of her life in Egypt, delving into tombs, uncovering new secrets, and searching for the women of antiquity amongst all the evidence of male rulers. When family tragedy strikes, Elizabeth is summoned home, and must give up her archaeology career for the stability of one in the National Library of Australia (referred to as the Mahony Griffin Library in the book) and support her family. In pain, and curious as to a fellow librarian’s behaviour towards her, Elizabeth finds herself volunteering to help uncover the secrets of a three-thousand-year-old Olmec cemetery. But all is not what it seems, and there are more than just bone-related secrets to uncover. What is the head of the project, Dr. Carl Schmidt up to, and why? Who is he covering for? And why does Mai hate her so much? Back at home, Elizabeth is grappling with younger siblings and grandparents who need her to work to support them, but also need her to help around the house and be there for them. Between work, and her family, Elizabeth hopes she can solve the mystery of the Olmec women, and prove to the university and library what has really been happening – and perhaps even why.

The first in what I am sure will be a wonderful new cosy crime series with cases so cold, nobody is left to speak for the dead but archaeologists and historians, Olmec Obituary brings a new sleuth to life, who deals in cases so cold, finding a witness would require a time machine. However, without one, Elizabeth settles on solving the crimes and mysteries of the past from the future, using her skills as an archaeologist, and with the help of Alice, a PhD candidate, and friends who study ancient languages, will make discoveries that will alter perceptions and cause Elizabeth to look to her family, and uncover more than just the skeletons at work. Olmec Obituary introduces us to a cast of characters who are unique and diverse, to a family with Welsh, Chinese and French heritage, with a female led cast of characters, with female-centric narratives driving the story, both the story of the Olmec burial and Elizabeth’s story, where she comes up against sexism in her voluntary position, and an unexpected altercation with a library employee she has never met – Mai – and who gives no indication as to why she has decided to hate Elizabeth – something I am intrigued by and look forward to finding out. I was just as surprised as Elizabeth at the instant hatred – it added another mystery to the story as I wondered what the hatred was about. It added a layer to the story and characters that contributed to the mystery.

Not only is the story-line compelling and interesting, Olmec Obituary’s diverse cast of characters, and female-led story brings a new voice to Australian literature in the last few years, offering up something meaty and intriguing for new readers who want their women doing new and interesting things, and seeking diversity. Combined, these work, and Elizabeth’s love life is present too, but already established and not at the forefront of the plot, which makes for exciting reading. As stubborn as she is, Elizabeth still has weaknesses and flaws that she tries to keep guarded and hidden, but it is these flaws that make her an intriguing character to read about.

The genre of cosy mystery, where the murder happens off page, without gratuitous violence and sex is becoming a favourite – and in this genre, all my current favourite authors are Australian women writers, with one being a British male – Vaseem Khan, author of the Baby Ganesh Investigation series. My other favourites which are by Australian women are:

LJM Owen, Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth

Sulari Gentill, The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries – and the series that got me into this genre.

Kerry Greenwood, Phryne Fisher Mysteries

Janine Beacham – Rose Raventhorpe Investigates.

So, in my vast collection, Elizabeth is in good company, and she is an intriguing character, much like Rowly, Rose, Phryne and Inspector Chopra and his baby elephant. Where Rowly has his artist friends, and Phryne has trusty maid Dot, and Rose, the Silvercrest Butlers, and Chopra has a baby elephant, Elizabeth’s companions are her cats, named for Egyptian gods and goddesses, who are there when Elizabeth is working at home, always watching, and always faithful.

This is a great start to what I am sure will be an engaging and educational series. Elizabeth looks to be a character whose secrets will be revealed across the series and watching this happen will be intriguing. I liked the way Olmec Obituary ended with a touch of a mystery to come and be resolved, whilst wrapping up key aspects of the main plot and revealing characters for who they truly are not the facade that they put on for everyone else.

A great read, and I can’t wait to get stuck into book two.

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2018 NSW PREMIER’S LITERARY AWARDS

The NSW Government has a long tradition of celebrating and connecting the public with art and literature. The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are an opportunity to highlight the importance of literacy and literature, whilst enjoying and learning from the work of our writers in NSW and Australia. Like other literary awards, this award in highlighting the spectacular Australian Literature Australian writers produce, highlights and honours the achievements of Australia’s writers, and their artistic contributions to society, but also to highlight our literary achievements to the world. The State Library administers the awards.AWW-2018-badge-rose

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have more categories than the Victorian awards. These categories are:

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction

2017 Winner: The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

2017 Shortlist: Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls

Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers by Ryan O’Neill

Where the Light Falls by Gretchen Shirm

After the Carnage by Tara June Winch

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood.

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing

2017 Winner: Letter to Pessoa by Michelle Cahil

2017 Shortlist:

The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon

Dodge Rose by Jack Cox

Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh

The Bonobo’s Dream by Rose Mulready

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction

2017 Winner: Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish

2017 Shortlist: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

Talking to My Country by Stan Grant

The Art of Time Travel: Historians and Their Craft by Tom Griffiths

Avalanche by Julia Leigh

Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire by Shane White

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry

2017 Winner: Ghostspeaking by Peter Boyle

2017 Shortlist: Burnt Umber by Paul Hetherington

Breaking the Days by Jill Jones

Fragments by Antigone Kefala

Firebreaks: Poems by John Kinsella

Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature

2017 Winner: One Thousand Hills by James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe

2017 Shortlist: Elegy by Jane Abbott

The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French 

the-ghost-by-the-billabong

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature

2017 Winner: Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall

2017 Shortlist: Magrit by Lee Battersby and Amy Daoud

Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair

Desert Lake Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli

Figgy and the President by Tamsin Janu

Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy

Nick Enright Prize For Playwriting

 

2017 Winner: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

2017 Shortlist:  The Hanging by Angela Betzein

You, Me and the Space Between by Finegan Kruckemeyer

Ladies Day by Alana Valentine

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting

2017 Winner: The Code – Series 2, Episode 4 by Shelley Birse

2017 Shortlist: Down Under by Abe Forsythe

Sucker by Lawrence Leung and Ben Chessel

The Kettering Incident episode 1 by Victoria Madden

Afghanistan: Inside Australia’s War by Victoria Midwinter Pitt

Cleverman Episode 5 “Terra Nullius” by Michael Miller

Multicultural NSW Award

 2017 Winner: The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke

2017 Shortlist: Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru by Madeline Gleeson

Not Quite Australian: How Temporary Migration is Changing the Nation by Peter Mares

Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea by Marie Munkara

Promising Azra Helen Thurloe – on my To Be Read pile.

The Fighter: A True Story by Arnold Zable

NSW Premier’s Translation Prize

 2017 Winner: Royall Tyler

2017 Shortlist: J.M.Q Davies

Penny Hueston

Jennifer Lindsay

Multicultural NSW Early Career Translation Prize

 2017 Winner: Jan Owen

2017 Shortlist: Christopher Williams

Indigenous Writer’s Prize – Biennial Prize Next Awarded in 2018

Last awarded in 2016.

2016 Winners: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe and Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

2016 Shortlist: Ghost River by Tony Birch

Inside My Mother by Ali Cobby Eckermann

Dirty Words by Natalie Harkin

Not Just Black and White by Lesley Williams and Tammy Williams

Other Awards:

NSW Prize for Literature

2017 Winner: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

People’s Choice Award

 2017 Winner: Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls

 Special Award

 The Special Award was last awarded to Rosie Scott AM in 2016.

Across these twelve categories and the three additional ones, there is a diverse range of authors and stories, that tell of personal experiences, imagined worlds and that draw on history and the world the authors have lived that led them to write these books. Each prize I have looked at so far has shown a different degree of diversity, with this one having a broader range, if only because it has more categories than the others I have looked at. Last year’s winners and nominees are in good company with past winners Peter Carey, David Malouf AO, Elizabeth Jolley, Thomas Keneally AO and Helen Garner.

Each prize has a different amount of money, and further details can be found in the provided links. In 2018, the total prize money, including sponsored awards is up to $305 000, and to be nominated for any of these awards, the writer and illustrator must be living Australian citizens or hold permanent resident status.

Taken from the website:

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are presented by the NSW Government and administered by the State Library in association with Create NSW. We are pleased to acknowledge the support of Multicultural NSW and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

The 2018 winners will be announced on 30 April 2018.The short-list will be announced in March.

Purchase any of the above books here:

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Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2018 Winners

2018 VPLA Victorian Premier's Literary Awards key art tile.jpg

Each year, the State Premiers of Australia nominate several books across several categories for literary awards, and each of the awards are announced at different times, and have different categories.  The Victorian awards were inaugurated in 1985 to honour Australian writing and are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

The Victorian awards are split into five categories: fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry and writing for young adults, with one winner in each. Each winner wins $25,000 and they go on to contest the Victorian Prize for Literature. The Premier’s Award also incorporates the Unpublished Manuscript Award, won by Christian White for Decay Theory in 2017, and a biennial Award for Indigenous Writing. Both of these awards go onto contest the Victorian Literary Prize with the other five categories.

People can participate in the awards by voting for their favourite work on the shortlist, and the winner of the People’s Choice Award, which is named alongside the general categories wins $2,000.

In 2018, none of the winners were male or identified as male. Of the five winners, four were women, and one was non-binary – Alison Evans, whose novel, Ida, won The People’s Choice Award. This year’s winners were announced on the first of February.

The winners

  • The Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-FictionThe Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)
  • The Prize for Fiction: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing)
  • The Prize for DramaRiceby Michele Lee (Playlab)
  • The Prize for PoetryArgosy by Bella Li (Vagabond Press)
  • The Prize for Writing for Young AdultsLiving on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
  • People’s Choice AwardIda by Alison Evans (Echo)

Of these, I have Australia Day by Melanie Cheng on my To Be Read list, and am deciding which of the others to explore.

The above winners were chosen and voted for from the following shortlist:

The shortlist

Fiction 

  • A New England Affair by Steven Carroll (HarperCollins)
  • Australia Day by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing)
  • The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Choke by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Restorer by Michael Sala (Text Publishing)
  • Taboo by Kim Scott (Picador Australia)

Non-fiction

  • The Museum of Words: A Memoir of Language, Writing and Mortality by Georgia Blain (Scribe Publications)
  • Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness by Kate Cole-Adams (Text Publishing)
  • The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)
  • For a Girl: A True Story of Secrets, Motherhood and Hope by Mary-Rose MacColl (Allen & Unwin)
  • No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow (Scribe Publications)
  • Tracker by Alexis Wright (Giramondo)

Drama

  • Rice by Michele Lee (Playlab)
  • Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui (Sydney Theatre Company)
  • The Rasputin Affair by Kate Mulvany (The Ensemble Theatre)

Poetry

  • Argosy by Bella Li (Vagabond Press)
  • The Metronome by Jennifer Maiden (Giramondo)
  • redactor by Eddie Paterson (Whitmore Press)

Writing for Young Adults

  • Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
  • Ida by Alison Evans (Echo)
  • Because of You by Pip Harry (UQP)

Highly commended

Fiction

  • No More Boats by Felicity Castagna (Giramondo)
  • Terra Nullius by Claire Coleman (Hachette)
  • Atlantic Black by A.S. Patrić (Transit Lounge)
  • Plane Tree Drive by Lynette Washington (MidnightSun)

Non-fiction 

  • They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention edited by Michael Green, André Dao, Angelica Neville, Dana Affleck and Sienna Merope (Allen & Unwin)

Poetry

  • I Love Poetry by Michael Farrell (Giramondo)
  • Reading for a Quiet Morning by Petra White (GloriaSMH Press)

Young Adult

  • In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black (Hardie Grant Egmont)

Reading up on as many of these entries as possible shows that this award strived for diversity too, and in naming four women and one non-binary author as winners, shows the importance of having these voices heard in society, but also the exemplary work these authors have achieved to have been nominated for these awards. Some of the authors on the shortlist were also nominated for the Stella Prize, and are on the 2018 Longlist, and information about this can be found on my post about the 2018 Stella Prize here.

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2018 Stella Prize Longlist

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On the 8th of February, 2018, the long-list for one of Australia’s most prestigious literary prizes was announced. The Stella Prize – a prize that recognises the contribution to literature of Australian Women Writers – announced its twelve-book long list yesterday in a year when women’s voices and diverse voices are starting to be heard more. This longlist showcases these diverse voices and shows how literature and the written word can drive political and social change, make people think and question what we think we know, what has been taught to us and what we have been told about the world. In these twelve books, women’s stories shine through fiction and non-fiction, the diversity of voices, and the fact that many were published by smaller presses, and some by larger presses illustrates the vibrancy of Australian publishing through our plethora of publishers, and the diversity and potency of women’s voices to explore issues that affect them at a personal, and social level, and that can impact the world around them and their understanding of it.

Of these books, I have read Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman, and am deciding which of the other eleven I might want to read. One book that has caught my eye is Michelle de Krester’s The Life to Come as has The Fish Girl by Miranda Riwoe, who has also written She Be Damned under pen name M.J. Tjia, published with Pantera Press.

The long-list:

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar

A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work by Bernadette Brennan

Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness by Kate Cole-Adams

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman (read and reviewed)

terra nullius

The Life to Come by Michelle de Krester

The Water: Five Tales by Beverley Farmer

The Green Bell: A Memoir of Love, Madness and Poetry by Paula Keogh

An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

The Choke by Sofie Laguna

Martin Sharp: His Life and Times by Joyce Morgan

The Fish Girl by Miranda Riwoe

Tracker by Alexis Wright

History of the Stella Prize

The idea of a prize to celebrate women’s literature began in 2011, from a panel meeting at an independent bookstore in Melbourne, Readings, on International Women’s Day that year. At the time, the panel was discussing the under-representation of women in the literary pages of the major newspapers in Australia as reviewers and the authors of books reviewed. At the time of this discussion in 2011, 70% of reviewed books were written by men.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe panel also discussed the under-representation of women as winners and nominees of literary prizes in Australia. in 2011, only ten women had ever won the Miles Franklin Award, which had been running for fifty-four years at the time. Since the inception of the Stella Prize, four women have won the Miles Franklin Award and 2013 had the first ever all-female shortlist for the prize. However, women not being nominated or winning is a trend across all major literary prizes, though in general, women are often winners of the fiction category of the state premier Literary Awards across Australia, but not often winners of non-fiction, despite women having written some brilliant and moving non-fiction that I have devoured and enjoyed. A full history can be read here on the website for the Stella Prize, but these discussions resulted in the creation of the Stella Prize, and the reclaiming of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin’s first name, Stella, for the name of a prize to honour writing by Australian women and recognise these voices across a diverse spectrum of identities and stories.

Past Winners:

2013 Stella Prize was  Carrie Tiffany forMateship with Birds.(Inaugural year).

mateship with birds

2014 Stella Prize was Clare Wright for The Forgotten Rebels of Eurekarebels of eureka

2015 Stella Prize was Emily Bitto for The Strays.

the strays

2016 Stella Prize was Charlotte Wood for The Natural Way of Things.

natural way of things

2017 Stella Prize was Heather Rose for The Museum of Modern Love.

museum of modern love

This year marks the sixth year the prize has been running, and the shortlist will be announced in March 2018, and the winner in April.

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Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn

eventual poppy day.jpgTitle: Eventual Poppy Day

Author: Libby Hathorn

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Angus&Robertson, an imprint of HarperCollins

Published: 23rd February, 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: Shooting stars, kisses, grenades and the lumbering tanks. And the shrieking skies and the shaking comrades: ‘Up and over, lads!’ And I know it is time again to go into madness.

It is 1915 and eighteen-year-old Maurice Roche is serving in the Great War. A century later, Maurice’s great-great nephew, eighteen-year-old Oliver, is fighting his own war – against himself.

When Oliver is given Maurice’s war diary, he has little interest in its contents – except for Maurice’s sketches throughout, which are intriguing to Oliver who is also a talented artist.

As he reads more of the diary though, Oliver discovers that, despite living in different times, there are other similarities between them: doubts, heartbreak, loyalty, and the courage to face the darkest of times.

From award-winning children’s and YA author Libby Hathorn comes a moving, timely and very personal book examining the nature of valour, the power of family and the endurance of love.

This is a story we should never forget.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseLike most young men in 1914, Maurice de la Roche signs up to go to a faraway war in Europe that has not yet touched the shores of Australia, but that will soon become part of the history and national identity of the recently Federated nation. As his family reluctantly watches him and his brothers leave, they face an uncertainty about their son’s futures. One hundred years later, Maurice’s great-great-nephew, the great-grandson of his much younger sister, Dorothy, is struggling with life, with family, friends, school and finding his way in the world, wishing to take art classes in school. At home, he is trying to help his younger sister Poppy speak again after a devastating illness following the departure of their father. But it is the story of Maurice that makes up the bulk of the story, and the diary entries that Oliver is reading brought to life in flashbacks to various points in the war: Gallipoli, Poziéres, and other battlefields throughout France, and Maurice’s knack for art, so similar to Oliver’s, that make up the bulk of the narrative, with significant events in Oliver’s life occurring at the beginning, middle and end of the novel.

Eventual Poppy Day respectfully and emotively evokes the battlefields and events of World War One, or The Great War, and The War to End All Wars would culminate in what would become known as Remembrance Day, where poppies are worn and placed in the Honour Rolls that commemorate every Australian military member who has died in service to their country. In a heartbreaking story that draws on family history, and one of the first major wars that would come to shape our national identity and the Anzac legend, Libby Hathorn has created a story that reminds us that we are all human, all fallible and not immune to history or the dangers of the world.

Marketed as a Young Adult novel, I feel that Eventual Poppy Day can be read by anyone, and I did enjoy that Oliver’s love for his family, for his sister Poppy, was the most important love for him on his journey. It is always refreshing to read a book, whatever the target audience, where love of family and friends is part of the story, rather than romantic love. To me, it feels like it strengthens the story, and enhances the characters and their motivations, and shows that there are more ways to love and care for someone beyond romance and are kinds of love I feel are being written about more and this is a good thing to show the spectrum of love across a variety of books and genres, especially when woven throughout the plot.

Another stand-out theme was the patriotic way the ANZACS embrace their mateship in the trenches of Gallipoli and across the Western Front. The way Libby has written about these experiences is so well written, it is as though you are there, experiencing it with the characters, with Maurice and those he served with. In the author’s note, Libby says that this book was inspired by her own relative, also named Maurice, and further research done with the Australian War Memorial and other resources about the ANZACS and World War One. I felt this theme running throughout evoked a sense of what it must have been like being so far from home and caught up in a war that wasn’t ours, but that threatened Britain, a nation that at the time, most Australians still felt strong ties to.

Through reading Maurice’s diary, Oliver’s personal growth shines through in his chapters, and it is a journey he has to take, to find out what he really wants and to help his little sister, Poppy. It is the kind of novel that many will hopefully enjoy reading and that honours the soldiers of World War One, as seen through the eyes of a teenager, trying to find his place in an ever-changing world. I have adored Libby Hathorn since reading Thunderwith in year six, and I am glad to have stumbled upon this novel.

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