Book Club: War Flower

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Author: Mary-Anne O’Connor
ISBN: 9781489241146
RRP: $32.99
Publisher: Harlequin
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.

Available now from Harlequin, Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

You can find Mary-Anne at her Website as well as on Facebook.

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.

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20 thoughts on “Book Club: War Flower

  1. Thankyou Beautyandlace and harlequinbooks for the opportunity to review ‘War Flower’ by Mary-Anne O’Connor.
    The book begins in 1965. Twins Poppy and Rosemary Flannery from a strict Catholic family and living in Sydney are not part of the ‘in’ crowd! They nickname the bully girls whose ringleader is Barbara the ‘Dog Squad’, and because Barbara is attracted to Ben a boy Poppy meets on the train, Barbara becomes very competitive and nasty.
    Both Poppy and Rosemary have the opportunity to try out for the Catholic Schools Orchestra and as it’s being held in Surfers Paradise they attend and enjoy beach paries when they sneak out from their accomodation. Here Poppy catches up with Ben again. This all happens after end of year exams and before they’ll attend university.
    Meanwhile Angus and his brother Spike travel from Broome to Surfers for a holiday and get to meet the twins and Ben at a beach party. They become close friends.
    The story continues to 1966. Ben who is from a prividged background with controlling parents attends the military college in Duntroon mainly because of his father’s insistance, it being a family tradition to serve.
    He finds himself being sent to serve in Vietnam and because Angus has been balloted they meet up there again.

    The sixties are featured strongly with drugs, protests against the Vietnam War and politics mentioned.. There is also a lot of the era’s music and artists woven into this interesting story.
    The men who fought in Vietnam were not supported and lived every day with horrors they had witnessed.

    Mary-Anne Ò’Connor has a unique way of making you feel you are actually there. I found parts of the book very sad and the characters were likeable (apart from Barbara) and real..
    This was such and enjoyable book and another that it was hard to put down!

  2. Set against the backdrop of Australia in the 60s and 70s with the Vietnam War being an integral part of the story ‘War Flower’ was an engaging read.
    I grew up in this era and remember the protests, the horror and the rage that young Australians felt about the Vietnam war so I really sympathised and connected with the story.

    Poppy and her twin sister Rosemary Flannery are ‘good’ catholic school girls who are kept under tight control by their strict parents. The girls attend a Catholic girls high school and are studious, musically talented and naive. When they attend their first school dance they are considered wall flowers due to their old fashioned ways. The school ‘in crowd’ bully the twins relentlessly.

    Poppy has a chance encounter with Ben Williamson on the train home from music lessons and falls in love and can think of nothing else but Ben.

    The girls have an opportunity to travel to the Gold Coast when they are selected in an inter school band excursion. Their lives are changed as Rosemary meets Angus and his brother Spike who have travelled from Western Australia and Poppy finally connects with Ben.

    The lives of the couples in the 60s/70s is as expected. There are parties, drugs, sex and music. Poppy experiences heartbreak; Rosemary experiences love and lives life to the extremes.

    Ben and Angus are sent to Vietnam. Ben as an officer and Angus is conscripted. Rosemary doesn’t cope with being away from Angus and becomes a heavy drug user. Poppy continues her university studies and waits patiently for Ben.

    The hardship of war, long distance relationships, loss of friends, deceit, death, love and the struggle for the men returning from war to a ‘normal life’ are all dealt with compassionately and with real feeling.

    There is heartbreak and horror but Mary-Anne O’connor, like her other brilliantly written books on war, has blended facts and fiction into an important and well researched story about a significant part of Australia’s recent history.

    “People who come through war in one piece are called ‘warflowers’ “

    I highly recommend this book and rate it 4/5.
    Thanks for the opportunity to read and review .

  3. War Flower by Mary-Anne O’Connor is a story about two somewhat sheltered schoolgirls who are starting to spread their wings set in the 1960’s. Poppy Flannery and her twin sister Rosemary are just starting to explore their opportunities and their boundaries. They are not part of the “in” set and are often ridiculed by the cool girls, especially when Poppy, and Barbara Rowntree are attracted to the same guy, Ben Williamson. Ben has his own pressures of family expectations and not feeling free to make his own choices. They all end up in Surfers Paradise, and get involved with the music and party scene, drugs, Vietnam war protest marches.
    Ben and Angus, Rosemary’s love, both go to the Vietnam war, which was lifechanging in many ways.

    I enjoyed the book, I could relate to the characters, and the story flowed well with a few surprising twists and turns.

    Thank you for the opportunity to read it.

  4. A beautiful story comes out of a horrible war.

    War Flower by Mary-Anne O’Connor is well-written fictional novel set during the Vietnam war. Poppy and Rosemary Flannery are two young sisters from a strict Catholic family who grab the opportunity to branch out into the buzz and excitement of Surfers Paradise in the 60’s. Their innocence is tested amidst this new life of parties, boys and music festivals. But then everything changes when their love interests, Ben and Angus are sent to Vietnam to fight in the war.

    Mary-Anne has created lovable and true to life characters through her beautiful writing and amazing story-telling ability. This was a very enjoyable read and I look forward to reading her other novels.

    Thank you very much Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for the opportunity to read this amazing book.

  5. Thankyou as always to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin books for the opportunity to read this book, War Flower by Mary Anne O’Connor.

    War flower Is a book set in the 60s, based around the Vietnam War era. Main characters of the book are twins, Poppy and Rosemary, and also boys Angus and Ben.

    Poppy is besotted with Ben from the moment of her meeting him in a chance encounter on the train. She doesn’t think she has a chance with him as popular girl Barbara shows interest, but Ben is also interested in her. After a few hiccups, they end up together as destiny intended.

    Rosemary meets Angus and his brother Spike, and quickly falls for Angus. But, due to the war both Poppy and Rosemary have to wait as both boys and Spike are shipped off to war.

    Touching on the heavy drug use in the 60s, and the lack of support for returned veterans, War Flower seems like a real story, and incredibly well written.

    Although there is a few very sad circumstances involving Spike and Thuy, a local Thailand girl, War Flower is powerful, intriguing and makes it very hard to put down.

    As a first time reader of Mary Anne O’Connor books, and not a huge fan of War books, I didn’t expect to like War Flower as much as I did, but War Flower has you hanging on and desperate to read the following chapters! It was a hard book to put down and I look forward to reading future Mary Anne O’Connor books. I will also be adding her previous titles to my book list!

    I gave this book 5/5 and I highly recommend to anyone looking for a captivating, eventful read!

  6. I have read one of Mary-Anne O’Connor’s other novels (Worth Fighting For), and enjoyed this one as much.
    In War Flower, the two main female characters are twins Poppy and Rosemary Flannery. Both girls come from a family with a strict upbringing and they find themselves teased and out of the popular crowd with the girls at school. The ringleader is a nasty girl named Barbara.
    One day, Poppy meets a handsome young man named Ben Williamson, a fellow passenger on the train.
    Shortly afterwards, Poppy and Rosemary are given the opportunity to head to Surfers Paradise, and coincidentally, Ben is holidaying there, with some friends.
    Rosemary meets Angus and they instantly form a strong bond.
    But then Ben and Angus are sent to Vietnam to fight in the war. The sisters wait for the young men to return, but will they be reunited again?
    I liked all of the characters in this novel, except Barbara.
    My favourites include Angus’ brother Spike, and Thuy, an orphaned refugee from Vietnam.
    The story is set in the sixties, and Mary-Anne makes you feel as though you have been transported to that time through her skillful writing.
    Thank you to Harlequin and Beauty & Lace for the opportunity to read and review War Flower.

  7. Thank you to Harlequin Books & Beauty & Lace Bookclub for the opportunity to review this book, War Flower by Mary-Anne O’Connor.

    When I signed up to review this book, I initially had the impression that War Flower would be the usual romantic tale of a lovely young couple who overcome family difficulties or some travesty only to become husband and wife to live happily ever after; a sugary sweet romance. My goodness, I stand corrected. This is a romantic wartime novel that packs one hell of a punch with a truly tumultuous story line.

    Poppy and Rosemary are twin sisters who grow up as sheltered Catholic school girls in the swinging 60s. They are naive, shy and subservient until they are finally allowed to spread their wings as they near the end of high-school; then their lives change forever.

    Poppy meets Ben and instantly falls in love, and in competition for his affection with the most popular girl in school, Barbara. Rosemary meets Angus and falls for him too and life should be perfect. Then the boys are sent to fight in the Vietnam War and all of their lives are changed forever. Will the boys survive? Will they return to the safety of home? Will they have changed after witnessing the atrocities of war? Will the girls be waiting for them when they get home? Poppy & Rosemary have lives of their own and are keen to experience a new social atmosphere they have not been accustomed to, sex, drugs and rock & roll.

    It is clear that this book has been very well researched by the author as we gain a true insight into the physical and psychological effects of wartime, the fear & vulnerability felt by those who are conscripted, and the heart wrenching separation and fear as loved ones are kept far apart from each other during wartime.

    War Flower is a beautifully written tome; an insight into the experiences of those who grew up in Australia during huge political upheaval, war in a foreign land and the party, drug & carefree cultures of the 1960’s.

    I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more from this accomplished author.

  8. War Flower was divine.
    It was confronting and challenging. I felt conflicted throughout my reading and felt at times that I was too involved with the characters, It is hard to describe but Mary-Anne drew me into the characters lives and I was hooked.
    The time warp and issues faced within the story are well established and very beautifully researched and written to present the hardships, difficulties and compelling underground activities of the 60’s.
    Rosemary and Poppy are fabulous characters, Twins, but they are greatly juxtaposed throughout the story. The lives entwine and cross in frequent ways but they have some great differences also. Their upbringing greatly affects their personalities and extremes.
    War is so confronting and real, Mary- Anne has obviously researched and portrayed her findings in a deep and realistic way.
    the story was beautifully written and heart wrenchingly fabulous.
    I read it from cover to cover in one sitting as I just didn’t want to put it down.
    Thanks Beauty and Lace for the change to read it. I am going to pass it on to someone I know will enjoy it.

  9. Reading War Flower certainly touched me emotionally as I recalled those torturous times when my young male relatives and friends waited for the birthday lottery. If they were unlucky enough to be conscripted their lives as they knew it were on hold for two years, and on their return they were certainly changed men. Veterans were treated badly, with no counselling available so the memories of war were locked inside to cause horrific nightmares forever. I lost two wonderful friends to this war , men who did not choose to be involved but felt the only other choice was to be imprisoned. The refugees, the unrest in Australia, the drugs are all touched upon in this novel . I think the author managed to bring to light the main issues which people living in the sixties had to contend with as the Vietnam war meant something totally different to previous wars. Although for me this was difficult to read due to my own experiences , nevertheless it is certainly a worthwhile read.

  10. Warflower is the first time I have read the author, Mary-Anne O’Connor. This novel is set in 1960’s against the background of the Vietnam War. The story resonated with me because in the 60’s I was of a similar age and background to the twins Rosemary and Poppy, all from a strict Catholic family.
    The author has blended facts into her fiction and researched well to give the true flavour of the conflict at that time.
    The story is based on the twins, the young brothers they meet and a Vietnam refugee. It explores relationships, as they were at that time with empathy and understanding. O’Connor writes of war with emotion and manages to give the reader a close understanding of the horrors experienced by the young men who were sent to war with little understanding of what they would encounter.
    She weave this in with life in Australia at that time. Young people experiencing freedoms unknown to their parents. The availability and acceptance of cannabis and LSD. Youths embarking on a new way of life with no road map.
    I personally have memories of Protests, previously unknown, taking place in Universities and among all young people. The Vietnam War became increasingly unpopular. The young men returning from Vietnam, were shunned, there were no supports in place. Many of them turned to drugs and alcohol, which ruined their relationships and futures. I have cried many tears and offered support to those I know who fought in Vietnam, and to their families.
    Warflower is very well written and brought back man memories to me. It is an excellent book to read if you want to know more about this important time in Australian history, or if you just enjoy a good story

  11. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Harlequin Books for the opportunity to read and review Mary-Anne O’Connor’s book War Flower.

    This is the first of O’Connor’s books that I have read, but I am extremely impressed by her ability to accurately capture the period of which she writes.

    War Flower is set in Sydney Australia in the mid to late 1960’s early 1970’s and follows the lives of twins Poppy and Rosemary as they move from their strict religious upbringing and catholic education to their first interactions with boys, the freedoms and drug culture of the period, and the impact of the Vietnam War on their young lives and the lives of those around them.

    As well as the twins there are other important characters, the very gorgeous Ben Williamson targeted by the popular girls (especially Barbara, a girl you can easily grow to hate) who only has eyes for Poppy, and wants to be an artist, but is governed by the family expectation that Williamson’s go to Officer training, become lawyers and marry well. Angus and Spike, West Australian brothers who decide to travel across Australia in a beaten up old car with a flatulent dog in the back to go surfing at Surfers Paradise in Queensland and Thuy, a your Vietnamese woman who comes to Australia after her entire family is killed by the Viet Cong.

    The Vietnam war in many ways was a turning point for Australia, whereas in the World Wars there was a feeling of pride in the soldiers who signed up to fight, and they were treated as hero’s on their return the experience of the Vietnam vets was very different. The Vietnam war was very much seen as a war that Australian’s should not be involved in and this was reflected in the Birthday Lottery where young men were conscripted to the army based on their birthday being pulled in the lottery draft. Despite large numbers of men going to fight in Vietnam against their wishes, returning soldiers were often reviled by the extensive peace movement that grew up during this period. O’Connor accurately paints the horrors endured by the troops in the jungles, the drug fueled socialist philosophy driven peace movement and the difficulties experienced by men returning from their time in Vietnam.

    This is a very well written book about the period, the characters all have great depth, and as someone who was around during this period it triggered many memories and emotions.

    Highly recommended.

  12. War Flower follows the lives of twins, Poppy and Rosemary. The girls were wall flowers, growing up in a strict Catholic family, often bullied by the cool girls at school. However after graduating high school and moving to University campus they discover a new life in a blur of alcohol, drugs and parties.

    Ben comes from a well to do family with a long line of military men. He knows that duty comes before anything, even love.

    Angus is the worry wart whilst his brother Spike is spontaneous and often reckless. The brothers drive across the dusty Australian outback from WA to Surfers Paradise Qld. A trip that will change their lives forever.

    War Flowis is as much an ode to the 60’s as it is an overwhelming account of how the Vietnam War had a far reaching impact on everyone’s life.

    O’Connor holds no bars as she vividly describes life in the 60’s. Music, drugs and politics are a major part of the book as the story slowly brings the reader into the true feel of the sixties. The first half of the story takes place over a six month period and endears the reader to the main set of characters. The remaining half is much faster paced and spans a seven year period.

    Overall Wall Flower was an engaging read with well drawn characters showing a true depiction of life in the 60’s around the time of the Vietnam War.

    The writing was a bit flowery at times and I feel this wasn’t really necessary. However my congratulations and admiration go to O’Connor for writing a compelling story befitting the topic without the gore, explicit sex and bad language.

  13. A huge thanks to Harlequin Books and Beauty and Lace for introducing me to this author: Mary-Anne O’Connor and giving me the opportunity to read and review “War Flower”
    This books tells the story of the Flannery twins: Poppy and Rosemary. It is a coming of age story set in the 60’s and 70’s.
    The girls come from a very strict religious background and start to spread their wings after a school trip to the Gold Coast. They both fall in love. Nothing goes smoothly though
    The book is set against a background of music, drugs and the Vietnam War. It shows how life can change in an instant. The horrors of war are vividly described, concentrating on the human toll, and the effects that linger long after the war is over.
    Yes, there are love affairs, but it is so much more than a love story. This book is a tale of humanity, of the ups and downs experienced by both Poppy and Rosemary and the other characters in the book
    I really enjoyed this book. It was fairly light, even though it dabbled in some pretty heavy subjects. I will certainly be looking out for more of Mary-Anne O’Connor.’s works

  14. Thankyou Beauty &Lace, Harlequinbooks and Mary-Ann O’Connor for the opportunity to read and review War Flower.
    Like many other reviewers I enjoyed War Flower,a very different tale of war set in the 60s during the Vietnam war.
    Surfers Paradise a place young people see as a place of fun and freedom was the ultimate adventure for sheltered twins. Poppy and Rosemary, brothers from Bourke Spike and Angus, and wealthy Ben.from WA.
    Meeting up in Surfers Paradise proved a distraction for the boys before Ben was to go to Duntroon and many of the other young men waited for the conscription numbers to fall. The girls, budding musicians, revelled in unusual freedom from strict family ties..
    The story continues as Ben and Poppy and Rosemary and Angus find happiness together and Spike being the carefree “cowboy” finds trouble with a wild crowd.
    Eventually the situation changes and many of the young men are sent off to fight in Vietnam and there are many earth shattering times in this theatre of war.
    The 60s being a period of free drugs and rock and roll, the titles of the old songs seem to mirror the experiences during this time. Broken hearts and broken bodies return to Australia, but can life just carry on after the horrors of war? Looking forward to finding another Mary -Ann O’Connor book.

  15. The story is about Poppy and Rosemary, twin sisters, growing up in Australia in the sixties, living in a very conservative ‘catholic’ family. Life changes for both of the girls when Poppy meets Ben on the way home from school. We go on a journey of love, lust, drugs, deception and war.
    I really enjoyed this book. I was worried about it being a book on ‘war’ and it being too gory but I was pleasantly surprised. It is a well balanced book and it will keep you reading right up to the end.

  16. Set in the midst of the 1960’s, War Flower is the story of twin sisters Poppy and Rosemary Flannery, their sweethearts and how they all survive the Vietnam era, both from the perspective of those who were conscripted to serve as well as back on the homefront. It deals with losing loved ones, dealing with the after effects of war, as well as trying to maintain a relationship once your loved one goes to war, and then returns as a changed man.
    War Flower not only effectively handles the drama inherent in the Vietnam war debate, but also effectively sets the scene of the swinging 60’s and transformation into the freeloving, pot smoking, Beatle loving era. Having not read her previous two works “Gallipoli Street” and “Worth Fighting For” I would be keen to see how these novels also captured the relevant eras of WW1 and WW2 and would recommend War Flower for those who enjoy the romance/ historical fiction genre akin to The Bronze Horseman series.

  17. War Flower is a story written by Mary Anne O’Conner who has written two other war based books that I haven’t yet had the privilege to read but plan to after reading this one.
    Set in the 1960’s during the Vietnam War, War Flower follows the lives of a number of different characters during this era. The book starts out with two sisters Poppy and Rosemary who live in Sydney and come from a very strict family. One day Poppy meets Ben Williamson on the train and falls for him but so does one of the popular girls so a bit of a rivalry begins. Ben Williamson comes from a wealthy family and plans to do service for his country before going back to law school. Meanwhile two brothers Angus and Spike are travelling across the country from WA to the Gold Coast where all the characters meet and become friends whilst all on holidays. Romance ensues but unfortunately this being war time means that Ben and Angus are sent off to Vietnam to be on the front line.
    This book is well written and well researched and really gives you a feel for what it was like to not only be involved in war but also what a dramatic impact it can make on the loved ones left at home as well as what it was like living in the 60s.
    Thanks for the opportunity to read this book Beauty and Lace and Harlequin.

  18. War Flower by Mary-Anne O’Connor had my attention from the very start. Following the lives of twin sisters Rosemary and Poppy throughout the 1960’s, 70’s and even touching on the 80’s.

    Poppy and her sister Rosemary are from a conservative and sheltered Catholic family. The author uses the development of the sisters identities as the core of the initial storyline, however as you read on there is the introduction of various romantic relationships and friendships that really do connect the storyline.

    The second half of the book moves into the realm of the Vietnam War, as the 2 sisters find their love interests called up for duty. There is also good development of the social and political setting at the time, both in Australia and Vietnam.

    A test of a good book is one that can make me tear up and this did just that towards the last chapters. I could not put War Flower down, as I just needed to know what direction the author would go in to end the book. I will definitely be sharing this book with others and hope to read more of Mary-Anne O’Connor’s other novels in the future.

    Thank you for the opportunity to read and review.

  19. Wow, wow, wow! To say that this is an amazing book is an understatement. It is not often that a book can make me laugh out loud, hold my breath with suspense and tension, cry with grief, and still feel the exuberance of youth and change by the people. This book made me feel all of that and more.

    War Flower follows the lives, trials and triumphs of the Flannery twins, Rosemary and Poppy, and yet it does so much more than that. It transports you up and down the east coast of Australia and over to Vietnam throughout the sixties and seventies. It immerses you in the culture, sights and sounds of the era and yet it remains authentic and doesn’t become cliched or cheesy. While the author is vivid in her descriptions it doesn’t overwhelm the story, it transports you to those places.

    I can’t recommend this book enough and eagerly anticipate reading more of this author’s work. A massive thank you goes to Beauty & Lace Book Club and Harlequin, without whom I may never have found this book.

    War Flower by Mary-Anne O’Connor is a must read.

  20. Thank you so much for the opportunity to read and review ‘War Flower’ by Mary-Anne O’Connor.

    This book drew me in from the first few pages with lovable characters. It was interesting to follow their lives and love stories through the history of the 1960’s Australia. From good catholic families to the free-loving hippies to the soldiers fighting in Vietnam. Each part came together so beautifully.

    The love story between Poppy and Ben was my favourite part of this book. War Flower will have you laughing, crying and sitting on the edge of your seat.

    I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading love stories, war stories or about Australian history. You won’t be disappointed!

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