Author: Jackie French
Genre: YA Historic Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Released: 1 April 2008
It is 1915. War is being fought on a horrific scale in the trenches of France, but it might as well be a world away from sixteen-year-old Midge Macpherson, at school in England learning to be a young lady. But the war is coming closer: Midge's brothers are in the army, and her twin, Tim, is listed as 'missing' in the devestating defeat of the Anzac forces at Gallipoli.
Desperate to do their bit - and avoid the boredom of school and the restrictions of Society - Mudge and her friends Ethel and Anne start a canteen in France, caring for the endless flow of wounded soldiers returning from the front. Midge, recruited by the over-stretched ambulance service, is thrust into carnage and scenes of courage she could never have imagined. And when the war is over, all three girls - and their Anzac boys as well - discover that even going "home" can be both strange and wonderful.
A thoroughly moving story about love, loss and friendship during such a tragic and horrendous time in world history.
In June 1915, Midge Macpherson receives a letter from her twin Tim, who is serving at Gallipoli, but soon learns that he is missing presumed dead. Sure it's all been a mistake and wanting to help the war-effort more, Midge and her friends Anne and Ethel decide to head to France to set up a canteen to serve soldiers heading to and from the battle line. Midge can also use this as a chance to ask anyone who may have served to Tim what had happened to him. But France and the war isn't as glorious as those back home are lead to believe - every night, ambulance after ambulance arrives at the train station, laying out stretchers of hundreds of injured men waiting for the hospital trains to take them away from the front. New Zealander Midge soon meets some Aussies and starts corresponding with Harry Harrison, a sheep farmer from Biscuit Creek. Soon, Midge is thrust into the carnage, first in as an ambulance driver, then in one of the causality camps, seeing the real horrors of the war. And when the day finally comes to go home, back to New Zealand, Midge realises how much the war has changed not only her, or her brother, but her entire country. But despite the hardship and loss, she manages to find love in it all.
This was an extremely beautiful and moving story that shows the role of women during the war. It wasn't just on the home front that wives, sisters and daughters were helping out the war-effort, but also very close to the front line. War novels always focus on those fighting on the front line, and so it's great to read about these same stories, but from the perspective of not only women, but those who aren't directly in the line of fire.
Reading this on the eve of Anzac Day really made the experience so much more moving and immersive. Jackie French has written such a beautiful story that's rich in history, looking at both the darkest times and the joyous moments of war. At no time does she glorify war.
I love that this story comes full circle, showing the importance of commemorating those who fought in all overseas conflicts, especially remembering those who didn't return home. Yes, this story is very sad, and there is a lot of loss - I definitely shed a few tears - but it's a story of the strength of those who fought. Even more, it shows the strength of the women who served during wartime, the forgotten army.
This is a perfect Anzac Day read, and I urge anyone in Australia or New Zealand to pick u this book. But of course, this isn't a book just for the Aussies or New Zealanders. Anyone can enjoy this story and the message behind it. I highly recommend it, and will definitely read it again around Anzac Day...
Lest We Forget.