THE Battle of Gallipoli may be one of the most widely-covered in Australian military history, but now and then something new comes along that provides a fresh take on the campaign that tragically and needlessly took so many young lives a hundred years ago.
Former journalist and foreign correspondent Christopher Lee – author of Bush Week and Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War – has said that his hope for his latest work of fiction is that people will read it and be moved by the plight of young men who are sent into the awful chaos of war, and this aim is an unavoidable consequence of reading this excellent piece of work.
The story follows Michael, his brother Dan and his mates as they make the trip via Egypt to the slopes of Gallipoli and their collective fate. In straightforward and detailed fashion, the reader is introduced to the seemingly endless list of deprivations and pain the soldiers faced for months on end. Unlike other similar works, however, Seasons of War doesn’t seek to romanticise the slaughter; more speak on behalf of the people who took part.
The brutal but masterful language shoots straight to the heart as early as page one.
“I am sitting here beside Dan in the dark… Beside Dan is Knobby. Beside Knobby is Mack… In one hour Knobby will be dead and in pieces.”
A few pages later and reality is setting in for the soldiers.
“Two hours ago we were different. The scarring begins.”
The story follows Michael and Dan as they manage to survive through the seasons, with meticulous detail to the everyday trials facing a frontline soldier; from disease, dead bodies and fraternising with the enemy. Ultimately it’s a story that goes nowhere, because there’s nowhere to go in a battle so pointless. Seasons of War only serves to speak for the soldiers and the suffering they endured, and the utter waste of it all. The story of an ordinary bunch of men thrown into an extraordinary situation is told with respect and honesty, and nothing is held back, so the suffering is laid bare for the reader in all its horrific detail. It’s a stark warning for all future generations to never forget the horrific consequences of war.
Lee – through the words of Michael – even offers ideas about how the battle fits into a national identity:
“Australia came out of Gallipoli and decided we are different now. We are better because we were called up to the first XI and gave it a good shot. That’s all.”
“Australia is a little country on a big stretch of land. No-one knows what Australia is. They think they do but they don’t.”
A fittingly devastating read for a truly devastating battle.
Seasons of War is available now.
For The AU Review