Monday, August 20, 2012

Daughters of Mars

Sally and Naomi Durance were sisters, the daughters of a New South Wales dairy farmer. They were both nurses but although Sally worked in the local hospital while continuing to live at home helping her father look after her sick mother, Naomi had escaped to work in a Sydney hospital. Then came World War I and both the girls enlisted to serve overseas. This novel by Thomas Keneally traces the relationships of the two sisters as they encounter the horrors wrought by war on the bodies of the young soldiers fighting at Gallipoli and then on the Western Front. The many aspects of the wrath of Mars are described through the experiences of the nurses first on a hospital ship, the Archimedes, on an evacuation station on the island of Lemnos and at clearing stations and at an Australian Voluntary Hospital in France. The story however is told through the lives of the two sisters and their friends as they struggle to survive and help those wounded in battle. Based on war diaries written by First World War nurses the book provides an insight into the effects of war both physically and mentally on those who become involved. Although euthanasia forms a sub-plot in the story a major theme is the development of the relationship and understanding between the two sisters forged largely by their war-time experiences.

During the next few years with the centenary of the First World War approaching this book is a valuable contribution to the material written about events occurring between 1914 and 1918.

Monday, August 6, 2012


The twenty-first book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett was published in 1997. The books in the series are not necessarily sequential and often deal with different sets of characters. The characters featured in Jingo are primarily from the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, the city's force against crime. Included in this group is Sir Sam Vimes, commander of the Watch, Captain Carrot who is six foot but was raised by dwarfs, Detritus, a troll, Corporal Angua, a werewolf and Reg, a zombie - not your normal police force.

The story begins when an island appears between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch with both countries wanting to lay claim to the new land even to the extent of going to war over the ownership of Leshp. Only Sam Vimes and the Patrician Vetinari voice their opposition to the proposed battle and outlawed they strive against the odds to stop the inevitable disaster.

Pratchett has created a fantasy world populated with an assortment of zany characters to not only entertain but in this case to also underline the futility of war and its effect on the people involved.