Morris does this just so very, very well. Historical fiction seems to have become his forte. This work follows the classy, timeless appeal of The Once Quartet by exploring the particular slice of history that is World War I and infusing it with love, pathos and humour while including authentic language and historical signposts that are instantly recognisable.
A prime example of the excellence of the writing is the way that Morris invokes the ‘ocker’ language of the time – without writing ‘strewth’, ‘cobber’ or ‘digger’ once. Here’s a sample:
Did I want to go?
Course I did.
Who wouldn’t want to choof off to distant exotic places, give a pack of mongrel bully boys what for and have the sort of experiences you just didn’t get in the Cudgegong district. When I told Dad I wanted to go, he tried to wallop me round the head with a canvas bucket.
Egypt was foreign, but the weather was Australian.
Heat and dust. Flies I reckoned I’d met before in Dubbo.
His writing is beautifully restrained, no more and no less than is called for to move the story along. The relationship that Dad and Frank have with their horses is symbiotic in the way that good stockman know animals, but it stops short of anthropomorphism.
And the ending is so very moving. The relationships that are created over the course of the story are real and authentic and the last few pages are just amazing.
I read this in a night. Into bed and started, and then didn’t stop until I was done. The subject is something I know little about other than the scenes from Gallipoli and Gleitzman brings it all to life – the hand-to-mouth existence of a manual labourer, the class system, the anticipation of going to war, and the terrible reality of it, too.
Love, love, love this book.
View all my reviews