Robbie is still a student at University when he gets himself arrested in Melbourne for joining the Moratorium march. There he meets a man, Hamish, and a young girl named Billy. But there is more than meets the eye and Robbie gets involved in a dangerous game that may cost him his life.
I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
"C'est la guerre, Johnny, c'est la guerre."
So far my understanding of French... but that is not the point.
This book is set between 1950-1989 and it tells the tale of a man the reader gets to know as Hamish. Robbie accidentally gets involved with Hamish, and some other people, when he meets him at the Moratorium march in Melbourne. Soon however Robbie realises that there is something not quite right and in no time he finds himself in a situation that can endanger his own life. Becoming friends with the older man, Hamish decides to tell Robbie his story because the same people who he has tried to escape from are now threatening to find him again and hurt him and those he cherishes most.
Now is the question though... where do I start because damn this book was just great!
I must admit that I had some doubts at first because I normally don't read historical fiction based on 20th century events but this book was something different for me. I've decided to divide this part into several sections to keep it all a little more organised:
First of all, the narrator. This book was mostly written from Robbie's personal point of view so there was a first-person for the largest part. By doing so the reader gets introduced to Hamish as if meeting a total stranger but slowly, in the parts where Hamish is telling the story about his past, the view changes and it gets more personal. At that point it is not just Robbie telling what has happened but there in an opportunity to see and feel what Hamish experienced during his dangerous journey home. I really felt for him throughout the story and it was gripping because it was so personal and emotional. It felt like I got to know him because I was with him and his thoughts every step of the way.
Then there was the setting.
I already told you that I usually don't read historical fiction set in the 20th century because I've already been bombarded with all that in secondary school so I had made up my mind and had decided that I could live without.
Well it seems this book changed my mind.
This book is not based on bullshit that is easy to see. There is so much detail on setting, events and people in various places it was mind blowing, beautiful, captivating. It is quite obvious that the author has studied the time-period and the specific events he was interested in and has used that knowledge to base this book upon. The way Thomson was able to describe some aspects of the Asian culture really contrasted to what was common to the westerners at the time and this was very interesting to read. There was one part that I specifically liked and that was when he explained the use of spirit-charms to the Hmong tribe and how these charms were used. Another aspect I enjoyed was that Thomson didn't just explain the political and cultural situation in several Asian countries but also told about the situation in Ireland and Australia at the time. But he didn't stop there, he also gave an insight to the workings of the different armies in Vietnam, making it even more personal by making his characters human (if you understand what I mean...) not just killing machines.
I really liked the writing style. There was room for a joke or a funny moment but when it was necessary there were serious scenes as well. I didn't feel like there was a moment where I lacked the urge to read on though I am really glad that there was no constant tension but that there were times where I could relax in order to deal with what I read in the chapter. There were no long boring passages about something which could have been easily left out in the first place, just a book with a good flow. For some readers some of the language used can be a but rough but I had no problem with it whatsoever.
Overall I really liked this book. At first I wasn't quite sure what to think because for some reason I thought that the story was going to be about Robbie looking back at the good old days and would start to tell a tale about an old mate. This was not the case and I was pleasantly surprised. I just don't know what else to say about this really, I simply really really like this book. I think that anyone with an interest in this time-period should read this book and even if you have doubts, just go for it.
I give this book 4.5 stars ^_^