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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Flora's War By Pamela Rushby, Melbourne: Ford Street Publishing, 2013

"It's 1915 and sixteen-year-old Australian, Flora Wentworth, is visiting Cairo with her archaeologist father. She watches with growing alarm as first a trickle and then a flood of wounded soldiers are shipped into the city from Gallipoli.

Flora's comfortable life is turned upside down when a hospital visit thrusts her into the realities of World War 1. She is soon transporting injured soldiers and helping out exhausted nurses – managing to fall in love along the way.

As Flora battles to save lives and find her own, a tragic misunderstanding changes everything"

I have a confession to make: I tend to get Pamela Rushby confused with her fellow historical novelist Jackie French, who has written novels set around the same period - for example, A Rose For The Anzac Boys is also set during the Great War, but in France, with some girls setting up a canteen for passing , often wounded, soldiers. It's good to see historical fiction by these veteran writers, even though it's difficult to persuade teens to read straight historical fiction as opposed to historical fantasy. (Right now, one of our students is reading Rushby's enjoyable Vietnam War novel, When The Hipchicks Went To War,  because "I LOVE the 60s and 70s!" It isn't often, though.)

Flora is a decent young woman, perhaps a bit modern in her outlook on such issues as racism, but then, as an archaeologist's daughter who has been coming to Egypt for years, she has come to know and respect the Egyptians who work for her father and make arrangements for him. 

A fascinating look at a period of history many modern teens probably don't know much about. The injuries are horrific; there's no attempt to fudge this. Also, it isn't often that we hear about war from the female viewpoint, except for those at home. The heroine isn't a nurse, despite the image on the gorgeous Grant Gittus cover, so it's different again.

Well worth a read as an extra while teaching Australian History, or just to get kids interested in historical fiction. You can confidently offer it to young Jackie French fans who want to read more.

Suitable for girls from early to middle secondary school.

Ford Street Publishing has an impressive array of published work, some by new writers, quite a lot by veterans like Ms Rushby, Dianne Bates, even a reprint of Isobelle Carmody's Greylands. Small press or no, it has become a respected publisher in this country and deserving of support. Here's the website:

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