205 pages, published 2007
"Admire who?" I said. "Who do you have to admire?"Sid looked down at the freshly filled grave and let his outstretched hand fall to his side."The Japs," he said. "They never give up." He looked up at me. "And they never run away."I held his gaze for a moment. Did he know who I was? I knew how different I must have looked - unshaven and so much thinner than when we'd last seen each other. [...]"You know what, mate?" he said. "You could learn a lesson from this bloke you just buried."I hated him. I hated Sid Archer more than I ever had. Half a world away from Hammersley and here he was, still making my life a misery."You see," he said, "a coward's better off dead than alive."A sudden chill descended upon me. Sid Archer knew who I was. (111-112)
The problem with assigned reading is that you're never guaranteed a book that you're going to like. When I picked this book up out of my pile and started reading I was sure I was going to hate it. The first chapter introduced me to the main character, Murray, a young man fighting on the Kokoda Trail ... and having already read several war based books over the past fortnight, this one with its soldier's language and abrupt start ("Bugger it, Murray!...") didn't exactly grab me right away. And so back into the pile it went.
That was a mistake.
Having forgotten all about it, I picked it back up the day of my class, thinking I'd give it a quick read and found myself ploughing through it, reading the whole thing in about two hours.
What appears at first as a somewhat singular war story, is much more the story of a boy's - a young man's - experiences of growing up: his dealings with the town bully, his brother's budding romance with the girl next door, and, most importantly, his ever ongoing search for the truth. All of which come to a defining culmination as all the boys involved reunite on the trail. 3/5