Thursday, April 25, 2013

An Awfully Big Adventure - New Zealand World War One veterans tell theirstories - by Jane Tolerton - Penguin

So What was it like to be a New Zealand soldier in the First World War?  What impact did the war have on those who returned? It's all here.

The title tells it all.  Enclosed between the covers of this book are the many voices of ordinary Kiwi jokers.  Good blokes who were just part of this event.  They couldn't escape or run from it.  Some embraced the adventure wile others just went because culture, lore, duty, crowd swell and peer pressure told them to.  The bok traces one path through the ghosts of many men, who are now in Heaven  Tolerton's tight clipped quotes provide snappy, poignant sound bites from a major oral history project undertaken before it was too late in the mid-1980's.  These are the transliterations of 80 veterans interviewed for the World War One Oral History Archive.  Respected journalist Jane Tolerton revisits the interviews and sets pieces in a chronology for 21st-century readers to follow the progress and human experience of the war - in the words of those who were there.  The men, who until the project, had possibly never spoken as cadidly about their subject.  They give first witness snapshts of every aspect of their journey from the pre-war exitement, to the disembarkment of troop shis, the onboard travel through the Pacific to the Suez Canal and the final, horrific landings at Gallipoli and other locations in Europe.  The men tell their tales with the safety of many year's distance but some how you can still hear the tremours in their voices and imagine the white, drawn faces of each narrator and the memories are unlocked again and spill out like sugar from a jar.  Some take hold and stick.  Some disolve quickly.  Some stain.  Some are sweet.  Some are sickly. This is an easy read. At least initially.  But every reader will add there own layers, their own spin.  And so they should.  Lest we forget!

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