Author: Mary-Anne O’Connor
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
War Flower is the third Mary-Anne O’Connor release, the third set against a backdrop of war and the second I have read. The more of her work I read, the more I know I need to go back and read Gallipolli Street. The books are all stand alone but tied together by the common theme of war, and they progress through wars. Gallipolli Street was a tale of the ANZACS, Worth Fighting For is set in World War II and War Flower is set in the late 1960s against a backdrop of the Vietnam War.
Poppy and her twin sister Rosemary have quite strict parents and so they are quite sheltered in their girls school, and it makes them a target for the popular girls. The teenage girl dynamic is timeless and well written, regardless of the generation this is an age old story. Of course the boy Poppy meets on the train one afternoon also catches the eye of one of the popular girls and the stage is set for the rivalry to escalate.
Ben Williamson is a popular boy with his life all planned out for him. The Williamson’s are a wealthy family with a deeply ingrained sense of family duty and high expectations, especially for Ben as he is a male set to continue the family name. He is set to finish school, join the armed forces to service his country for a set number of years and then return to for law school. Nowhere does that take into account Ben’s creative soul and artistic talents.
Involvement with the school band allows the twins a Surfers Paradise escape which finally sees them able to join in with their peers and embark on a secret new life.
Surfers Paradise is the place to be that summer; not only are the Flannery twins on the coast but also some of their friends, Ben Williamson has taken a holiday with his mates and a pair of brothers have trekked cross country in a rattly old vehicle all the way from Western Australia. This is the summer that sets the scene for a new way of life for all of them.
Conscription and the birthday lottery was a reality for the young men of the late sixties and we see some young Aussie’s number come up. Ben had always planned to do service for his country but that didn’t mean he wanted to serve on the front line.
Angus trekked the country from one side to the other only to be conscripted after embarking on a passionate love affair. We follow him to Vietnam and get a frontline look at life in the trenches.
O’Connor has written and insightful and well researched novel that explores the lives of the young men who were conscripted into service as well as what life was like in the sixties for those left behind. The protests, the political uprising, the drugs and the parties, and just how easily some people got swept up in that lifestyle and carried into addiction.
We follow our cast of leads through years of upheaval and turmoil, from the innocence of adolescence through war, addiction, betrayal and acceptance. An interesting look at a dark time in history. O’Connor’s characters are diverse, interesting and well developed; she created a cast of leads I connected with and wanted to see find a happy ending. Some of the secondary characters on the other hand, I couldn’t bring myself to hope they got a happy ending but what they deserved.
I am left wanting to go back and read Gallipolli Street, and I look forward to seeing what O’Connor has in store for us next.
War Flower is book #43 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.
Everyone is going to have a different take on this one I think and I will be interested to hear what our readers think.
Thanks to Harlequin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading War Flower so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.