Author: Peter Watt
War Clouds Gather is a continuation of the Frontier series which now stands at eight novels, and I have come in at novel number 8 – which was really easy to read as a stand alone. Yes, it would have been nice to know the back story and how the story got to this point but it was definitely not essential.
Set in 1936, in the lead up to World War II, War Clouds Gather follows two Australian families on their travels across the globe. We go with them across Europe as well as following their antics in Australia.
The Duffys and the Macintoshes are inextricably linked through generations and it seems the animosity only grows stronger with the passing of time. For those who are familiar with the saga I’m sure it was simple to keep all the characters straight and where they fit into the families, I must say it did take me a while to work out how they were all connected.Family Sagas always tend to have family trees that intertwine, and this one was no different.
These characters are all fictional, though if you’ve read the entire series I’m certain they feel extremely real, but the events this story use as a backdrop are based in history. The Spanish Civil War took place from 1936-39, and the forces were joined by people from countries who weren’t involved. Dachau concentration camp existed and was utilised to stamp out resistance to Hitler’s policies in the lead up to the war.
Peter Watt has set out to ‘put a human face’ to our history and he has done so admirably. His characters and their stories draw you in. Generally I am not one to read stories of war but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale.
The major players of this novel are scattered across the globe. Captain Matthew Duffy is based in Iraq with his one plane operation, George Macintosh is a Sydney-sider though we first meet him and his children in Berlin and then there’s David Macintosh who travels extensively, and quite dangerously, from Berlin through the Spanish Civil War and back to Australia.
David Macintosh is set to inherit a seat on the board when he turns twenty-one and Uncle George is determined not to let that happen. He would much prefer to keep control of the companies within his immediate family. Even if his son Donald is less than interested and his daughter Sarah can’t take a seat on the board, she is a woman after all.
Donald isn’t quite of age when the story begins but he is old enough to have racked up quite the gambling debt, borrowed from the company he has control of, and requires a bail out – which he uses to rack up more debts. George packs him off to the family property in Queensland hoping that he will grow up and learn some responsibility so that when he takes his seat on the Board he is ready for the challenge. George gets more than he bargained for because Donald learns responsibility but he also learns his own mind, the time away helps him grow into himself while he is out of his father’s shadow. Donald may have been totally against the move originally but his months in the bush have allowed him more freedom than he ever had, he learned to stand on his own and be accepted for who he was regardless of his family.
The family property is a cattle station, Glen View, and it is almost a character in itself. There is a lot of history in the old station and we only learn bits of it, I would be interested to know more. I think those who follow from the beginning may have all the answers but I was left intrigued. The land belonged to the Aboriginal people before the Macintoshes and there is a curse laid upon them, we don’t find out the details of the curse either but we do know that storms are coming for this family.
Sarah is a chip off the old block, she has the ambition and the will to take over from her father but apparently there is no way for a female to sit on the board. Sarah refuses to back down, she is determined to get a foot in and help with the companies and it seems daddy dearest may just help her in the door.
David runs afoul of the Germans in Berlin and finds himself in Dachau, a horrible place he is lucky to escape and his experiences lead him to join the International Brigades fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Not as a Communist, but as one against fascism. We follow him through Spain as those he fights beside slowly dwindle and we get to the point where we aren’t sure even he will survive.
In Iraq is Matthew Duffy, father of two estranged children and a widow who survived The Great War and started a flying company transporting for the British oil industry. The depression saw the business downsize but he has managed to remain afloat, though always needing an injection of funds. A visit from an old student who learned to fly with him before heading off to fly in America sees him set forth on a course fraught with dangers he never imagined, and kindles the spark of desire he thought he had forgotten for the much younger Diane who needs his help with German archeologists setting up digs in the desert.
All of these characters have great depth and are quite three dimensional, they draw you in to their mindset – even when they are absolutely deplorable people. There is intrigue, espionage, deceit and unexpected love. Definitely a saga worth sinking your teeth into.