23 April 2008

Anzac Day

Friday is Anzac Day, 25 April, a very important day in Australian history, and an important day in our annual calendar. It is a public holiday here, and we have dawn services, marches through city streets, and meetings of old comrades.

25 April 1915 is the day regarded Australia's "baptism of fire", the first day Australian troops went into battle on behalf of their country. It commemorates the landing of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand troops) at dawn at Gallipoli, at the place now known as Anzac Cove. It also commemorates a defeat.

It has become a day when nationally we remember those who have participated in wars on our behalf, who gave their lives to protect and promote democracy. Increasingly both young and old Australians pilgrimage to Anzac Cove to see the dawn rise there.

Check out the Australian War Museum site.

I thought I'd point you to some books, plays, and films to look out for.

Books in my database:

THE FIRST CASUALTY by Ben Elton. My rating 4.6
The setting is 1917 and the Great War grinds on, with the youth of the British Empire and Germany being sacrificed on the Somme. Douglas Kingsley, an inspector in His Majesty's Metropolitan Police in London, finds himself in gaol when he declares that the war offends his sense of logic. Rejected by his wife and condemned as a conscientious objector, Kingsley is sent to Flanders to investigate the murder of a British officer, also renowned as a poet. The setting in the war allows the author to ask questions about the importance of investigating the murder of one man when so much bloodshed is occurring all the time.

MURDER IN MONTPARNASSE by Kerry Greenwood. My rating 4.6
A Phryne Fisher Mystery read by Julia Davis. At the end of World War 1 in Paris, Bert, Cec and 5 other Australian soldiers witness a murder when a man is pushed under a Paris train. Now, in Australia in 1928, two are very recently dead and Bert and Cec believe they are being targetted. Phryne was in Paris in 1918 and remembers the train incident. It also brings back memories of the man she was infatuated with then. Now she learns that he has recently arrived in Melbourne.

THE SHIFTING FOG (aka THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON) by Kate Morton. My rating 4.7
Set mainly during World War I and immediately after it. Six months before the war starts young Grace Bradley, 14, takes up a position as a housemaid at Riverton Manor. Eighty four years on, she is contacted by a young female filmmaker who is making a romance film about the death of Robbie Harrison, a young poet, who suicided at the house during a mid summer's eve party in 1924. Many will argue this is not a murder mystery, but you'll have to decide for yourself.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER by Jacqueline Winspear. My rating 4.6
This novel is set some time after the first in the Maisie Dobbs series. Maisie is now an established detective with rooms of her own and an assistant. It's now the early Spring of 1930. Her friend Detective Inspector Stratton of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad is investigating a murder case in Coulsden, while Maisie has been summoned to Dulwich to find a runaway heiress. The woman is the daughter of Joseph Waite, a wealthy self-made man who has lavished her with privilege but kept her in a gilded cage. His domineering ways have driven her off before, and now she∂'s bolted again. Waite's instructions are to find his daughter and bring her home. When Maisie looks into the disappearance she finds a chilling link to Stratton's murder case, and to the terrible legacy of The Great War.

PARDONABLE LIES by Jacqueline Winspear. My rating 4.6
A deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs to confirm that his son, an aviator in the Great War, did actually die when his plane crashed in France. It was something his wife never accepted and it was a torment that drove her mad. Lawton believes his son is dead and is expecting Maisie to confirm just that. Maisie was in France during the War herself as a nurse and it is where her friend Simon was wounded and brain-damaged, so going back to France is no easy thing for Maisie. She takes on an extra mission - to find out for her friend Priscilla Evernden what happened to one of her three brothers who were also killed there. I would call this book a comfortable, rather old-fashioned read, which are the qualities that I liked in the first book in the series, and which led others to dislike the book.

Films to look out for

Gallipoli (the following courtesy of Wikipedia)

Gallipoli is a 1981 Australian film, directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, about several young men from rural Western Australia who enlist in the Australian Army during the First World War. They are sent to Turkey, where they take part in the Battle of Gallipoli. During the course of the movie, the young men slowly lose their innocence about the purpose of war. The climax of the movie occurs on the Anzac battlefield at Gallipoli and depicts the brutal attack at the Nek. Gallipoli provides a faithful portrayal of life in Australia in the 1910s — reminiscent of Weir's 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock set in 1900 — and captures the ideals and character of the Australians who joined up to fight, and the conditions they endured on the battlefield. It does, however, modify events for dramatic purposes.

The screenplay is by David Williamson and original music was provided by Australian composer Brian May (who had also scored Mad Max).

1915 (film)- available now on DVD

A classic Australian World War I saga, 1915 captures the hopes and heartaches of innocent country boys as they embark on the greatest and worst adventure of their lives, when they face the filthy deprivations and shocking savagery of trench warfare.

Best mates Billy and Walter have forged their friendship fighting over girls, racing each other on horseback and dreaming of excitement - but their biggest challenge awaits them in a war unfolding on the other side of a changing world. Caught up in the glamour of soldiering and the naïve enthusiasm to defend God, King and Country, the young men enlist in the army to prove themselves glorious heroes in the "war to end all wars." Instead, the grotesque, bloody horror will scar them for the rest of their lives, haunting them to ponder, "What did we achieve?"

Starring: Scott McGregor, Scott Burgess, Sigrid Thornton, Bill Hunter, Lorraine Bayly, Arna Maria Winchester, Serge Lazareff, Richard Moir, Ilona Rodgers, Martin Vaughan, Gerard Kennedy, Diana Benedetto, Graham Rouse, Adrian Wright.

Play to read

THE ONE DAY OF THE YEAR by Alan Seymour (1958)
A controversial look at how Anzac Day is remembered in Australia. Central to Alan Seymour's modern Australian classic is the paradoxical nature of Anzac Day. We chose as our venerated, inescapable symbol of military remembrance a campaign that was both a tactical fiasco and a defeat. There is an article in Sydney Morning Herald worth reading. Find a copy of the play if you can. It was banned from the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 1960.


Marg said...

One that I read last year and really enjoyed was Barbed Wire and Roses by Peter Yeldham - an Australian family searches through the war archives to try and find out what happened to their father during WWI.

A question about the House at Riverton. A friend recently asked me about it:

"I picked it up at the library thinking it might be about modern-day characters solving a mystery from the past (à la the wonderful Anna's Book, by Barbara Vine, say), which is something I love. However, a quick look at the amazon reviews has given me the impression it might be more of a saga/soap-opera kind of thing, which is not something I enjoy. How would you describe it?"

I haven't read it, so don't know, but how would you answer that question?

Kerrie said...

There has been a lot of discussion about where THE SHIFTING FOG (which I actually think is the better title) fits in genre type Marg. I don't think it was written as a mystery. It has more in common with the Winspear type of book - a story that contains mysteries. Nevertheless I enjoyed it although, as you know, I read almost exclusively mystery/crime fiction.

southozsue said...

Thanks Kerrie...you have given me a new book to read.....MURDER IN MONTPARNASSE .... I would sgree with your rating of First Casualty....and in my opionion my most favourite Ben Elton book...but my bias shows.
Happy Reading

Kerrie said...

That's good Sue


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