Friday 4 October 2013

Evan’s Gallipoli by Kerry Greenwood

Evan’s Gallipoli : a gripping story of unlikely friendship and an incredible journey behind enemy lines by Kerry Greenwood (Allen & Unwin, 2013)

Written in diary format; most entries are fairly short – not many are more than a page long, and often they are only a short paragraph.

Subjects: World War One, Gallipoli, Turkey, Thrace, Greece, deserters, pacifism, senior fiction (Year 7-10)

The first diary entry is for May 1st 1915. It doesn't mention the landings at Gallipoli, but Evan's father is reading the newspaper when he looks up and says, "I must go to the Dardanelles at once". 

Evan (aged 14) and his father take supplies from their family business (Warrender’s Superfine Spices) and travel by ship with the army medical corps from Australia to Egypt, Lemnos and then to Turkey. His father is a preacher and a pacifist, who believes that God has told him “to take comforts to the soldiers dying on the hot cliffs at Cape Hellas and the beaches of Anzac Cove.”

They arrive in June, and endure the shelling and the noise, the dreadful living conditions and the extremes of weather, just as the soldiers have to. Simpson and his donkey make an appearance, and Evan makes friends with a couple of Aussie blokes called Bluey and Curly. Evan’s father - who is clearly a man of God, but often difficult to live with - then decides to take his message of peace to the Turks as well.

The two of them are captured by the Turks and the German officers, then sent further inland. By this time Evan’s father is sick with fever, possibly malaria, and he gradually loses touch with reality. It is up to Evan to find a way to steer them and their new friend Abdul back through a strange country to the safety they hope to find in Greece.

This is a story that gives a quite different account of the Gallipoli campaign from anything you will have read before. I would have liked a map to explain exactly where Thrace was placed amongst Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece, so here is one from Wikipedia (which Kerry Greenwood refers to as a useful source in her afterword!)

I like the dedication: For all orderlies, friends, nurses, carriers, widows, orphans, minders and peacemakers who ameliorate the cruelty of war.

Here are some reviews written by by teachers.

What did you find out about Gallipoli that you didn’t know before?
What did you find out about Turkey, the Turkish people and Turkey during the war that you didn’t know before?
What were some of the surprises in this story? Did you guess any of them?
Why do you think Abdul felt the way he did about the Jews and the gypsies?

Author’s website:
Kerry Greenwood’s website (and Kerry Greenwood herself) might not be quite what you expect.

She is best known for the Phryne Fisher series, whose beautiful, rich and elegant heroine solves crimes and mysteries in 1920s Australia, but she has written some other books for children and young adults.

And I can’t resist quoting these fascinating facts from her website:
"Kerry Greenwood has worked as a folk singer, factory hand, director, producer, translator, costume-maker, cook and is currently a solicitor. When she is not writing, she works as a locum solicitor for the Victorian Legal Aid. She is also the unpaid curator of seven thousand books, three cats (Attila, Belladonna and Ashe) and a computer called Apple (which squeaks). 

She embroiders very well but cannot knit. She has flown planes and leapt out of them (with a parachute) in an attempt to cure her fear of heights (she is now terrified of jumping out of planes but can climb ladders without fear). She can detect second-hand bookshops from blocks away and is often found within them. 

For fun Kerry reads science fiction/fantasy and detective stories. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered wizard. When she is not doing any of the above she stares blankly out of the window."

There is some more info about her on Allen & Unwin's website.

Other books you might like:
It’s hard to think of any other books to compare this to, as it tells the story from such a different angle. I found a reference to Candles at Dawn by Serpil Ural which also tells the story of Gallipoli from the Turkish perspective, but I haven't come across that book.

Gallipoli: the front line experience by Tolga Ornek, Feza Toker (Currency Press, 2006) is a non-fiction companion title to a Turkish-made documentary, based on diaries, letters and photographs of Australian, New Zealand and Turkish soldiers involved in the Gallipoli campaign.

There is a secret which is only revealed at the very end and I can’t say more fear of spoiling the plot, except to say that it is part of a fine tradition (stretching back to Shakespearian times) of other stories that use a similar technique.

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