Let me tell you about an extremely auspicious publication. It is called: The Historical Novel Review.
What? You haven’t heard of it. Where have you been hiding all these years?
It is simply the best magazine for readers and writers of historical fiction in the world.
It is the premier periodical for librarian’s, serious readers and writers. I would know because I subscribe to it.
In recent months the Historical Novel Society has taken a giant leap in the right direction. Let me detail their meteoric rise.
1. They let me subscribe
2. They let me join their online discussion list
3. I met one of their editors at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival (Hi, Marina)
4. They have a great children’s historical novel review editor (Hi, Mary)
5. No one is doing reviews of Australian young adult historical fiction
6. Except me!
7. That’s right, me!
8. In Issue 45, of the August 2008, HNR,there is a review by me.
Just in case you do not subscribe to this magnificent publication, I will reproduce the review in full.
A Rose for the Anzac Boys
Jackie French, HarperCollins, 2008, $15.99 AUD, pb, 260pp, 9780732285401
It is the year 1915. Margery (Midge) Macpherson is a seventeen year old New Zealand girl attending boarding school in England while her two brothers serve with the Australian New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in Turkey and Europe. Midge leaves school to set up a railway canteen in France. She serves refreshments to the endless flow of soldiers returning from the front, relieves the local ambulance driver, and assists at a field hospital. Jackie French does not spare the reader. People die and are injured. But somehow she strikes a balance between the horrors and humanity of war that is appropriate to upper primary lower and secondary readers.
Each chapter is headed by a series of letters. I found myself poring over them, as if they had recently arrived in the post. The letters are written by Midge, civilian relatives, and others serving in military and medical capacities. Through them, we hear the voice of the era with all of its class consciousness, parochialism, hope and despair.
The narrative is framed by two contemporary events: ANZAC Day, 1975, as Lachie prepares to push his Pa’s wheelchair in the Biscuit Creek remembrance parade; and ANZAC Day 2007, where Lachie is marching as a soldier newly returned from fighting in Afghanistan. These chapters attempt to bridge the past and the present. It was not until halfway through the narrative, however, that I connected Biscuit Creek with Harry, a young Australian soldier Midge was befriending. Or until the final chapter, that I understood Lachie to be a descendant of Harry and Midge. I was disappointed to find the adult Lachie in military uniform. To remember the ‘war to end wars,’ was no such thing. But that is Jackie French’s triumph, the final thrust of her novel. She delivers it powerfully.