A Fatal Tide
Random House AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
It doesn’t take long for Thomas Clare to regret going to war in order to find his father Jack’s killer. A teenager, Thomas and his good friend, Snow, an Indigenous boy found the decapitated body of Jack in what was assumed to be a suicide. However Snow’s father Tubbie, a gifted tracker, is quickly convinced that there’s no way this was a suicide, especially coupled with a secret document that Jack had hidden away that only Tubbie knew about. Evidence of other people at the scene is clear, although no one in authority is willing to listen, determined to leave it as a suicide. Given the evidence points towards army boots, Thomas lies about his age and with a recommendation from a well known high ranking official, he joins the war for Britain and her Allies.
But they are sent to Gallipoli, fighting a seemingly never-ending advancement of Turks and it takes no time at all for Thomas to be picking up a rifle, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t question the validity of what they’re doing, or the hatred of the enemy simply for defending their own country. But why he’s there is always paramount in his mind – his love of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories has led him and Snow to fancy themselves as a Sherlock and Watson team and they have a murder to solve after all.
It’s actually kind of shameful, but I’ve never read anything centered around Gallipoli. I’ve read little in the way of books set around WWI and mostly what I have read deal with either fighting elsewhere, focused around Britain and France, or life in Australia while the war was going on. I’ve read much more on the intricacies WWII and in terms of my reading history, it seems that WWI is very much the forgotten war. So it’s only fitting that given it’s the 100th anniversary of the war beginning this year (now, actually!) that I should finally read something that addresses both Australians fighting overseas and in particular, Gallipoli.
The war scenes are quite brutal, in more ways than one. There’s a lot of descriptions of bombs being thrown into the trenches, and the Australian troops quickly pick them up and hurl them back, hopefully before they explode, but that isn’t always the case and limbs are being dispensed with right, left and center. There’s a sort of humanitarian cease-fire, that allows both sides to collect and bury their dead, some of which are in an advanced state of decomposition. But I think what is also just as disturbing, at the way there is enthusiasm for taking up the rifle and being one of the ones to be firing the kill shots. So much so, that there is arguing over who gets to do it. They’re young men, full of testosterone and a sort of patriotism too, although there are questions on the hatred for the other side when really, they’re just doing the same thing. I know it’s basically start killing your opposition or be killed, but there’s a sort of enthusiastic pack mentality in the beginning, like it’s a parlour game.
I studied Australian history in school, so the Boer War, WWI and WWII involvements… but that was twenty years ago and it was only for a semester so I was surprised just how much I had forgotten (basically everything before WWII). It made me realise that I really do need to read more books around this time, including a few non-fiction books to really reboot my knowledge. Of course everyone knows about Gallipoli, it’s something that has marked itself so deeply on our identity but when I took myself off to read up more on the background, I was a little embarrassed to realise just how much knowledge had fallen out of my head!
Back to the book – I really enjoyed both the characters and the story right from the beginning. I was really enamoured with the friendship between Thomas and Snow. In 1915, such a friendship between a white boy and an Indigenous boy would’ve probably been highly unusual, as was Jack, Tom’s father’s friendship with Snow’s father. There was a great mateship between Thomas and Snow and they adapt others into that in the trenches, finding humour where they can. I really liked the way that the story tied back in to the Boer War and people such as Breaker Morant and Lord Kitchener and what had happened to Thomas’s parents in their attempts to keep something a secret. I admired Thomas – he was so young and he was faced with so many terrible things that he has to grow up way too fast. He lost his mother, he lost his father, he went to war, he faced betrayal by someone he trusted, he watched his comrades die. He used his love of the Sherlock Holmes stories to help him survive and get out of difficult situations, so he was clever and resourceful. He also had to make important decisions regarding what had led to the deaths of people he cares about.
A Fatal Tide is a great read, both informative and entertaining and it definitely helps paint a very realistic picture of war and all of the ugliness that goes with it – the conditions, the death, the struggle against becoming a mindless drone, killing people that happen to have the misfortune to be from a country allied with the enemy. If you have an interest in history, in particular the ANZACS or WWI, then this is definitely a book to check out. It’s clever, well written and very descriptive and has me adding yet more books to my reading pile so that I can refamiliarise myself with history!
Book #158 of 2014
This review is part of a blog tour for A Fatal Tide. The previous review comes from Samstillreading so please stop by and check it out!
A Fatal Tide is book #12 for the Aussie Author Challenge 2014