Title: The Turning Tide
Author: C.M. Lance
Published: August 1st 2014
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, War, Historical, Australian
Rating: 4.5 stars
A novel of secrets, mateship and betrayal, set against a dramatic backdrop of wartime Australia – a sweeping saga that will be enjoyed by readers who crave action and adventure with a little bit of spice.
When Mike Whalen revisits his former commando training grounds at rugged, beautiful Wilsons Promontory, he’s shocked by a chance meeting with the granddaughter of his glamorous old friends, Helen and Johnny.
When Johnny died in the Pacific War, Mike was left with a burden of buried secrets. And as he’s drawn back into the life of Helen’s family, Mike finds himself overwhelmed by the past, from growing up in melting-pot Broome to tragic guerilla missions in Timor, desire in post-war Hiroshima and betrayal in the jazzy fifties.
Before Mike can turn the bitter tides of memory and have any hope of happiness, he must rebuild his bonds with wartime mates, face his long-held guilt, and finally confront Helen – and himself – with the truth.
From Broome to the Prom via war in the Pacific, this is a powerful saga of mateship, adventure, betrayal and passion.
The Turning Tide is a sweeping saga, crossing rural Australia, through to the Timor and the Pacific. It is the powerful life story of Mike Whalen, a young man who hails from the pearling town of Broome and later becomes a commando in the Pacific during World War.
Mike’s compelling story is told via two timelines, it follows his time as a commando, firstly in training at the picturesque Wilsons Promontory, through to his harrowing time serving in the Pacific, namely in Timor. It also looks at Mike’s time as a translator working in post war Japan, where he marries Japanese Australian Betty. When Betty dies, Mike returns to Australia, marries again and eventually decides to retrain at university to become a professor of engineering. A chance encounter with the granddaughter of the man whom Mike swore to protect on his deathbed during the war, reigniting a flurry of emotions for Mike. The reader moves back and forth with Mike as he recalls his glory days in the war, contrasting it to his now sorrowful current existence.
I was completely enamoured by The Turning Tide, enjoying the unfolding story from cover to cover. I whipped through it in three short sittings, all in the space of 24 hours, which indicates how highly I regard this novel. When I wasn’t reading this novel, I was longing to get back to it, namely for the fantastic character study it offers. I will start off with Mike Whalen, the principal character. I loved his narration and the journey he makes from a young man, to a brave commando, to a loving husband and an academic in later life. He is a caring soul, building solid relationships with so many he comes into contact with. These people, a mixture of family and friends, filter through the novel, forming memorable periphery characters in the novel. I enjoyed their stories just as much as Mike’s, as they all seemed to have an integral part to play in Mike’s overall story.
The locales are a stunning feature of The Turning Tide. Lance is ambitious in setting her scene, taking the reader far and wide. Mike takes the reader on a journey from various parts of Australia to the Pacific, to post Hiroshima Japan and back to a changed post war Australia. In each setting, the details are so finely built that the most accurate picture is provided to the reader. Lance also uses setting to contrast her time frames, offering a well drawn picture of life pre World War II, post World War II, into the fifties, right through to 1980’s Australia. I lapped each and every time frame covered, as it was so well drawn.
War is a strong theme in The Turning Tide. It did feel harrowing, offering a realistic picture of the Australian war experience in the Pacific. I found myself learning much about this conflict and feeling slightly embarrassed not to have known more about the conditions, suffering and finer details about this historic battle. I am glad to have had my eyes opened to this essential part in our history. Lance also examines the human psyche and the long term effects this war had on those involved. In addition, Lance sheds some light on the home based experiences of the loved ones left behind. She highlights the sense of the unknown, which many experienced as they were unsure if their men on the front line would ever return home safely.
Romance is also on the agenda in The Turning Tide. It is perhaps the overwhelming reason why I stayed so glued to this novel. Mike’s unresolved relationship with Helen, another main character and the wife of his good friend Johnny, is the main reason why I loved this novel. I held much hope throughout the novel that Mike would finally get his happy ever after. The conclusion more than satisfied my hopes for Mike. The Turning Tide was wrapped up nicely at the end, offering the revelation of a significant family secret but I guessed what this was very early on in the piece. Nevertheless, my overall enjoyment of this novel was extremely high.
The Turning Tide is a book that encompasses love, war, family, secrets and the power of friendship across time and place. The profound narration from main character Mike, made this book and unforgettable read and one I would not hesitate to recommend highly. I look forward to reading more in the future by this author.