Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Battle for Lone Pine

Subtitled Four days of hell at the heart of Gallipoli, this book by David W Cameron recounts the events of the four days from 6 August to 9 August 1915. There were two thousand, two hundred and seventy-seven Australian casualties during the four days with more than 8oo dead. It was estimated that there were more than five thousand Turkish casualties. The battle can be described as a blood bath.

Based on diary entries, correspondence and official reports such as those noted by Charles Bean this is a very human account of the lead up to the battle as well as the four days when the battle took place as experienced by those involved. As we remember the Centenary of World War I this book provides a telling reminder of the sacrifice of  young lives at the Battle of Lone Pine.

Mapping the First World War

The Great War through maps from 1914-1918. The Imperial War Museum in London has in its collection maps documenting war zones and maps used in war. A selection of these maps, along with photographs, is used to show the history of the First World War. Types of maps vary from those showing country boundaries, maps showing key battles, trench maps and maps from newspapers and propaganda. Battles include those at Gallipoli, the Middle East and the Western Front. With chapters arranged in chronological order this book by Peter Chasseaud provides an informative interpretation of the story of a world at war.

Deal me out

This is an early title in the Cliff Hardy series by Peter Corris. It was first published in 1986. Cliff is hired to locate a car that has been stolen from a car hire firm. He discovers that the person who took the car is known to him, William Mountain, but he also discovers that Mountain is missing. Mountain's girlfriend is also looking for him and works with Cliff to try and locate him. It soon becomes obvious that they are not the only people looking for William Mountain and the search is becoming dangerous. Murder and hostage taking are only two of the dangers encountered as Hardy uncovers the deadly game that Mountain is playing. This is a fast moving Sydney based crime novel.

The Floating Brothel

Sian Rees recounts the story of the voyage of the convict ship, Lady Juliana, which travelled to New South Wales  in 1790 with 226 female convicts on board. The voyage took 309 days. The ship departed Portsmouth on 29 July 1789 and arrived at Port Jackson on 3 June 1790. The book describes life in London in the late eighteenth century, the voyage of the Lady Juliana and also provides pen portraits of some of the convicts. My great (x3) grandmother, Mary Bateman was one of the convicts on the ship. Mary, aged 14, was working as a prostitute in London when she and a fellow worker encouraged a patron under the influence of alcohol to enter the building where they worked in Cable Street and, after sex, relieved him of his watch. This event led to a new life for the girls on the other side of the world. Sian Rees has produced a readable, well documented account this part of Australia's history. A television documentary based on the book was made in 2006.


Christos Tsiolkas has written a novel about the fear of failure and the difficulty of living a full life after success which is not fully realised.

Danny Kelly is a swimmer. Swimming is his life and when he wins a scholarship to a school where he can work towards his goal of being an Olympic swimmer he can see his future success within his reach. Although he really does not fit in at the new school where he is an outsider he trains hard at his swimming and when he wins races he is a hero - the barracuda. When life is difficult he assures himself that he is the best.

The novel questions whether the win at all cost attitude that can exist in Australia is the attitude that we should impart to our children. Children should be encouraged to do their best but should their life revolve just around the one goal? What resources are in place if, for some reason, the goal is not achievable? What happens when the life the person has trained for has ended and the rest of life stretches ahead? How does one cope with a dramatic change in life expectations?

This is a thought provoking book which parallels real life situations where we hear of athletes' difficulties in coping with life after sport.

Angel with two faces

The second in Nicola Upson's series of books based around the novelist, Josephine Tey.

Inspector Archie Penrose has invited his friend, Josephine Tey, to holiday with his family in Cornwall. The story opens with a funeral where Archie is a pallbearer. Harry Pinching had ridden his horse into a lake and drowned. The funeral introduces the reader to the main characters and also suggests that this is a village of secrets which must be kept from Archie.

The local police invite Archie to lead the investigation which takes up much of his time. Meanwhile Josephine observes the villagers and learns some of the secrets they are trying to hide. She befriends Harry's sister, Loveday, a young girl not readily understood by most of the villagers, and tries to understand the power network that appears to exist. Archie has also been seconded to be the narrator of a play at an open air theatre and when the main character is murdered the need to find out what is really going on in the village intensifies.

This is a well written murder mystery that endeavours to uncover how events of the distant past can still affect the present.

Adventures with the wife in space

The subtitle to this book by Neil Perryman is Living with Dr Who.  In the book Perryman details his lifetime fascination with the BBC television show, Dr Who. 50 years of Dr Who was celebrated in 2013 and the show has a growing legion of fans throughout the world. Started initially as a children's show the new series of Dr Who is watched by people of all ages. There was a gap in the show from 1990 to 2005 when the new series began. There was a Dr Who film in 1996. The program has steadily gained popularity in its new incarnation. Although it is not always easy to follow the plot it is almost always entertaining. The Christmas specials have become part of Boxing Day entertainment. There have also been a number of anniversary specials.

Part of the book details a project that Peryman undertook with his wife, Sue - not a Dr Who fan , to watch all the available episodes of the first (classic) series of Dr Who. He then recorded her reactions to each episode in a blog, Adventures with the wife in space. The initial episodes were in black and white and were produced on a minute budget. The rickety sets were often  the standout. Sue rated each episode and the public often commented on her reactions.

This amusing book is not only about the project but is also an account of a young man growing up. It is also about how people can become obsessed with, in this case, a television program and its characters and how attitudes may change over time. One of Perryman's fears was how he would also react to episodes that had entertained or scared him as a child.

I purchased a copy of this book for the Dr Who fan in my family. I hope that he enjoys it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Australian War Memorial: treasures from a century of collecting

One of the most moving events I have experienced was at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. It was evening and we were standing, with small candle-like torches, looking over the Pool of Reflection as the Last Post was played. It was obvious that this is a very special place.

The Australian War Memorial was opened to the public on 11 November 1941 but collecting items for the museum had been a project for much of the century. This 600+ page work by Nola Anderson celebrates the development of the collection for the Australian War Memorial. The War Memorial has displays relating to all wars and peace keeping operations in which Australians have been involved. The biggest collections, of course, relate to the First World War and the Second World War however the first military excursions include the Crimean War, the Boxer Rebellion and the Boer War. Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East and Timor are other operations covered. The Australian War Memorial uses photographs, art works, documents and artefacts (all sizes) to tell the stories of Australians in war zones. Much of the story is told using photographs of collection items to explain the involvement of Australians in world conflicts. It serves as a tribute to the men and women who have served their country when it was required.