All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Fireshadow – Anthony Eaton

on July 12, 2013

Anthony Eaton
University of Queensland Press
2013 (originally 2004), 309p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

You let your sister burn…..

Vinnie is running. After a tragic accident that killed his sister and left him viciously scarred, he can’t face the blame and the guilt anymore. So he leaves home, hitching a ride on a logging truck and venturing into the bush to camp. To just get away from it all and be.

In 1943, during the height of the Second World War, German soldier Erich Pieters is captured in Africa. He is interned to an Australian prisoner of war camp, deep in the Western Australian bush. Despite the fact that his father is high up in the Wehrmacht, Eric has not been deemed sympathetic to Nazi causes and so he ends up in the prisoner camp Marrinup with other Germans and Italians. At first Erich is horrified at the lack of discipline and lack of respect that his fellow German prisoners show to their country and the cause. He’s determined to hold himself aloof, to not make any friends and to not consort with the enemy.

But Erich’s experience in Africa leads him to be posted to the camp hospital, assisting the elderly Australian doctor. Although he doesn’t want to, Erich begins to thaw – the doctor is a great man, a gentle and kind man who encourages Erich to read his medical texts. He sees Erich’s intelligence and thinks that Erich would make a fine doctor. This idea appeals to Erich, although he knows that when the war is over and he gets to leave here, his father will have other plans for him. And the fact that the doctor has his young, pretty granddaughter staying with him and often helping out also begins to show Erich that there’s more to life than the German ideal. He begins to question everything and wonder if he can possibly have the life that his time in Australia is dangling in front of him… medical studies, a girlfriend, happiness. No war.

Vinnie is surprised to find that he’s not alone  – a campervan nearby contains a girl about his age and her elderly grandfather, who are on a mission to see the remains of the old prisoner war camp. The old man has some lessons for Vinnie, helping find acceptance and peace on his way to his own journey of closure.

Originally published in 2004, this book has been beautifully repackaged by the University of Queensland Press. As soon as I saw the gorgeous cover I couldn’t wait to read it. I love dual narratives when they’re done well and this book does it very well. The present day story revolves around Vinnie, a teenager who survived an horrific car accident. However in getting himself out of the car to go for help, his older sister burned to death and now Vinnie has survivor’s guilt and feels as though his father blames him. His father placed all his hopes on Vinnie’s sister Katia, working hard so that she would have opportunities that he did not. Katia had been accepted to study medicine, making their father beyond proud. Vinnie didn’t have the same scholarly aspirations as Katia did, instead he chose to get a job in a plant nursery, earning him his father’s scorn and derision. Trapped, feeling the blame and needing to get out and be free of the crippling weight, Vinnie leaves in the calm of the pre-dawn, seeking solitude and perhaps absolution. The last thing he expects during his escape to the wilderness is to have company.

In 1943, Erich Pieters arrives at the Australian prisoner-of-war camp. By all standards, life at Marrinup is not difficult and it’s no hardship for many to wait out the war there until they can be returned to Europe – some don’t even want that, they’d prefer to stay in their newfound home. Erich is so very serious – he claims to be 22 but is only 17 and he signed up to make his father proud. He’s appalled at the lack of respect some of his fellow prisoners show and he refuses to wear the clothes they give him, opting for his own uniform that will not keep him warm here. Erich is thawed by Doctor Alexander, an elderly man who lost a son in the first world war. Despite this and the feelings he has, he tends to German prisoners and he teaches Erich much about life and medicine.

The character of Doctor Alexander is inspired. He was so beautifully done – a kind, gentle, intelligent man who saw potential in an angry and serious young man and sought to foster it, in more ways than one. Dr Alexander had his own issues revolving around the war, having lost his son in the first Great War and was now watching the world go through a second one. Still he didn’t allow that to colour the way he felt about his patients and the people that came into his life. He saw each person as an individual, not part of an ideal and I think he was able to pass that mindset onto Erich as well. Watching him and his round-a-bout way of instructing Erich and mentoring him was a very enjoyable part of this book!

This is an effortless blending of the contemporary with the historical and I have to say that I was surprised the way the story turned out. I thought that I had it all figured out how it would end but Eaton didn’t take the easy way out and the resulting story was probably much better for it. The depth of the characters was first rate and I particularly like how Eaton always said more with less – especially in the way of Vinnie’s relationship with his father. He managed to paint an entire picture with only two or three interactions between the two of them.

Australian YA has a fabulous reputation for a reason and books like this are that reason.


Book #178 of 2013

Aussie Author Challenge

Fireshadow is the 8th novel read and reviewed for the Aussie Authors Challenge! It’s my first young adult novel for this challenge and it’s by an author who is new to me.




One response to “Fireshadow – Anthony Eaton

  1. Wow, this story sounds extremely powerful. Like you, I love dual narratives and I’m very interested in learning more about the lives of these characters, particularly Vinnie, who my heart just breaks for. I cannot wait to read this one!

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