Anzac Day marks the anniversary of Australia’s first major military action and is also a national day of remembrance that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. Though we may only be able to celebrate the Dawn Service with a candle in our front yards, we can still remember. From women war artists to home-front heroes, memoir to picture books, we’ve put together a list of 10 books that recognise the contribution and suffering of all those who served or who lived through those turbulent times. You'll find their stories inspiring and heartening.
Memoir, history, non-fiction
A Fortunate Life
A new edition of A.B. Facey’s classic was published last year to coincide with the centenary of WWI and is now available in paperback and in a special hardback edition as the latest title in the Fremantle Press Treasures series. Facey survived Gallipoli and lost a son in WWII, but despite enduring unimaginable hardships, he always considered his life a fortunate one.
No Ordinary Determination
An engaging and expertly told story of two men whose ordinary lives crossed when they were enlisted as soldiers in the First AIF in WWI. Percy Black and Harry Murray may have been ordinary men, but their heroism and mateship was nothing but extraordinary in the face of the horrors of the ‘war to end all wars’.
In Love and War: Nursing Heroes
As a child, Liz Byrski experienced the horrors of war firsthand, watching pioneering plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe rebuild the faces of burned airmen who would haunt her dreams into adulthood. Returning to the small Sussex town in her sixties, Byrski reconnects with the nurses who played a vital role in the treatment of these men, and the survivors who experienced it.
When War Came to Fremantle
Deborah Gare and Madison Lloyd-Jones
A factual and fascinating look at Fremantle’s role in WWI and WWII, among many other conflicts. Western Australia’s major port city played a unique role in the nation’s story, and the engaging photographs and never-before-seen images show just how vital it was during wartime.
The Last Anzacs
Steven Siewert and Tony Stephens
The Anzacs lost more men on the Western Front than they did against the Turks at Gallipoli. Yet, rightly or wrongly, Gallipoli is etched deepest into the Australian and New Zealand psyches. Now, all the original Anzacs, the men of Gallipoli, are gone. The Last of the Anzacs explores the lives of the final few of them, so that their legends will live on.
Women artists at war
Nora Heysen: A Portrait
Nora Heysen was the first woman to win the Archibald Prize for Portraiture and the first female painter to be appointed an Official War Artist for Australia. This extensively researched biography, whose release coincides with a major retrospective at the NGV in Victoria, is a rich, immersive look at the life and work of one of Australia’s most gifted artists.
Kathleen O’Connor of Paris
Novelist Amanda Curtin embarks on her own journey in this part-biography, part-travel narrative to look at one of Perth’s most bohemian artists. Kathleen O’Connor, drawn to Paris in 1907 as a 30-year-old, lived through the Great War in the city, painting and creating despite the devastating loss of her brother in the conflict. Spanning WWI, WWII, the inter-war period and more, this is a personal and poignant look at the life of an artist and the changing world around her.
In Flanders Fields
Norman Jorgensen, illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever
This is the touching tale of a homesick soldier who risks his life to rescue a robin caught in the barbed wire that separates him from the opposition forces. Filled with detail and determination, and beautifully brought to life by Brian Harrison-Lever’s illustrations, In Flanders Fields is a story of humanity and compassion in the face of traumatising conflict.
In the Lamplight
Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds
The third in Dianne Wolfer’s Light trilogy of picture books for older readers follows Rose as she trains to be a nurse caring for Australian soldiers in the English village of Harefield during WWI. Perfect for older readers and those interested in home-front stories, the book was recently named a CBCA Notable Book for 2019, following in the footsteps of previous titles in the trilogy, Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy.
A Fortunate Life for Younger Readers
This new edition of an Australian classic has been specially adapted to enable younger readers to enjoy the tale of Albert Facey’s fortunate life. His simply written biography is an inspirational tale and a must-read for any young readers with an interest in Anzac history.