To commemorate today’s Anzac day celebrations, thought I would share a handful of World War I, Gallipoli based stories that I have recently read. I have included a mixture of non fiction and fiction books, from both Australian and British authors. Each of these books moved me in their own right, some were inspired by a family history of relatives who were a part of this ill fated campaign. While other stories were rich in historical detail, highlighting the author’s depth of research in bringing Gallipoli to life for readers today. It is important these stories to continue to emerge, so the spirit of the Anzac and the many soldiers who took part in this turbulent battle are never forgotten.
Gallipoli by Peter Fitzsimons, published in 2015, is a 700 page plus non fiction offering that works to comprehensively document the Gallipoli campaign. Once I settled into the embrace of Mr Fitzsimons engaging form of presenting his take on Gallipoli, I was hooked. I liked the format that Fitzsimons used to approach his version of Gallipoli’s key events. He utilises a good mix of sources, from diaries, letters, newspaper articles, personal statements and maps. All these sources are tied together neatly, a sign of the extensive research Fitzsimons has obviously undertaken to write this treasury. Fitzsimons works hard to present both sides of the story, enabling the reader to understand Gallipoli from both the Australian/New Zealand Corps point of view, as well as the Turks enemy side. He highlights the bungled decision making from the top political players of the time, resulting in so many senseless deaths. I firmly believe Peter Fitzsimons Gallipoli is an essential text and is one that should on high school textbook lists. It is a mandatory read for all Australians.
Closely after finishing Gallipoli by Peter Fitzsimons, I selected A Fatal Tide by Steve Sailah, also published in 2015. This is a fiction novel, offering a war time mystery, set against the backdrop of Gallipoli, with echoes to the Boer War. A Fatal Tide is written by renowned ABC correspondent Steve Sailah, a man who undertook extensive research on Gallipoli to form his first novel. In the acknowledgments section of his novel, Sailah outlines the time spent with many veterans of Gallipoli that helped to further formulate his debut book. A Fatal Tide is the story of Thomas, who enlists in the war in 1915, along with his friend Snow, a local indigenous boy and Thomas’ best mate. Although both are underage, they hope to solve the suspected murder of Thomas’ Father, whilst they are serving in Gallipoli. What emerges from this detective based war story, is a battle for survival for the two boys and their comrades. It also examines the test each soldier must confront morality wise, as they face fierce onslaught from the enemy, fend off disease and survive appalling trench conditions. Whilst the mystery within the battlefields was sometimes hard to get a handle on, A Fatal Tide was clever, ambitious and informative novel. It didn’t shy away from exposing the reader to the horrors of war and it was successful in highlighting the patriotism, mateship and bravery that was shown by our Australian soldiers in World War I.
By contrast, Glory is a story of the British experience of Gallipoli, written by accomplished British author Rachel Billington. Billington’s novel is inspired by her grandfather’s experiences of Gallipoli and was devised after Billington thoroughly researched her grandfather’s war record. Tragically, Billington’s grandfather died fighting in the Gallipoli campaign, along with some many other British soldiers before and after him. Billlington describes sadly how her grandmother refused to believe her husband had died at the front. Instead, she pinned her hopes on him being captured and held in a camp or Turkish hospital. It is the rawness of this personal experience that feeds into Billington’s novel Glory. Glory intertwines the experiences of three British citizens ripped apart by the effects of war. The lives of these men and women become twisted together by fate and the Gallipoli experience. Billington combines class differentiation of the war experience, the British politics that resulted in this unsuccessful assault, the gruesome battles, along with gentler themes of war time love and the agony of life on the home front awaiting from news from Anzac Cove. An epic tale of heroism, resilience, the will to survive, loss and love, Glory presents a fine standpoint on the Anglo experience of Gallipoli.
If you feel inspired to find out more on the Gallipoli experience or the history of our ANZAC men and women, I have previously reviewed these recommendations, Gallipoli Street by Mary Anne O’Connor, ANZAC Girls by Peter Rees and Nightingale by Fiona McIntosh.