Flora’s War – Pamela Rushby

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Ford St Publishing

August 2013

ISBN: 9781921665981

Paperback – 306 p.

RRP: $18.95

Between April 25 1915 and January 9 1916, the Battle of Gallipoli – also known as the Dardanelles Campaign raged between British/French Allies and the crumbling Ottoman Empire in modern day Turkey. It was a defining moment for both sides but for Australia and New Zealand, arguably the most significant military episode in their respective histories, giving rise to an enduring national identity and the concept of the ANZAC spirit.  Since then there have been countless books, discussions, films, articles and other retellings both fact and fiction, of the tragic casualties suffered –  a shocking almost 30, 000 Australian soldiers dead or wounded as a result of combat. 

Pamela Rushby has previously explored through fiction and nonfiction, Australia’s part in significant wars, Ancient and Modern Egypt and archaeology and in this new novel, combines all of these ingredients to present a very different slant on the ANZAC story.

Flora is a young girl, newly transitioned from schoolgirl to young woman, the daughter of a well-known Australian archaeologist who enjoys an annual sojourn in Cairo, helping her father with his current dig.  In 1915 however, Cairo is a very different city from all her previous visits, with endless rows of army tents, drilling troops and dedicated young nurses in abundance.  Far from Flora’s anticipation of a whirl of social engagements as newly emerged ‘young lady’, within a very short time Cairo is hurled into the bloody Dardanelles Campaign aftermath as waves of wounded soldiers are transported from the Gallipoli battle – many of them in near-fatal condition.  The normal structure of hospitals and nursing staff cannot cope with this flood of piteous survivors and every possible building is commandeered to accommodate those who recover and volunteers are hard pressed to transport and nurse them.

Flora’s account of the Gallipoli tragedy is told compassionately and provides the reader with a little known side to the well known history of this disastrous military venture. The personal relationships woven throughout the story lend depth and emotion to the characters and their situations and the reader is drawn into the atmosphere of the dark days they endured. The author has used extensive research to provide solid factual recounts of the events.

This novel would make an extremely valuable addition to any secondary library as well as a significant contribution to the study of World War 1 and Australian Identity (ACARA Year 9 History Strand).

Highly recommended for readers aged 13+

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