Harry Fletcher and his foster brother Eddie, much to the despair of their mother, join the army. World War One has begun and although Australians weren't conscripted at the time, Harry and Eddie wanted to do their bit to help. In December 1914 they leave their home of Semaphore in South Australia to take part in the nightmare of war in Egypt, Gallipoli and France.
The story begins after the war when Harry Fletcher and his granddaughter are sorting through his late wife's belongings. Amongst them is a diary written by Eddie starting on the journey from Australia. It's through diary entries and memories that the author tells of the plight of the men, their family, friends and loved ones during those terrible years.
There is little doubt that a lot of research went into this story. Not only for the factual things such as the dates and places. The descriptions of life during the war, in the trenches, on the front lines were written as if the author had been there herself. Or at least spoken to many ex-servicemen to find out what it was like. I was amazed at what I read, and I don't mind telling you that I ran the gamut of emotions. I cried big ugly tears at one point. I cringed a lot at the conditions I was reading about. I also had some smiles for when the good times happened. I really feel that my eyes have been opened to what life was like during the war, and in Harry's case, after the war too. Men didn't come back 'whole.' The war and what happened during it will never leave them or their loved ones. I am emotionally shattered.
This book is a must read for anybody with an interest in learning about life during WW1. It might be a fictional set of characters, but looking into the realities of the war is something I think we should all do. I definitely recommend this book if for no other reason than that. Not for people who don't like to get emotional!
Clare Rhoden writes historical fiction, sci-fi and fantasy (check her titles at Odyssey Books http://odysseybooks.com.au/). Clare lives in Melbourne Australia with her husband Bill, their super-intelligent poodle-cross Aeryn, a huge and charming parliament of visiting magpies, and a very demanding/addictive garden space.
Clare completed her PhD in Australian WWI literature at the University of Melbourne in 2011, and a Masters of Creative Writing in 2008, in which she investigated the history of her grandparents who emigrated for Europe to Port Adelaide in January 1914. The Stars in the Night is the result of her research.