On Anzac Day, we reflect on the lives of the Australian men and women who have served and lost their lives in war. Through storytelling, we make sure that their lives and our history are not forgotten.
Below we have curated a list of six Australian books that explore experiences of war. If you’re looking for extra reading ideas, browse through our ‘war’ theme tag.
Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh and Samantha Fry
Not much is known about the Indigenous Australians who have fought for Australia in every war since the Boer War. Alfred’s War is a gorgeously illustrated picture book that represents a universal experience of Indigenous soldiers who experienced equality amongst their fellow soldiers and friends, but who faced discrimination when they came back home.
Reg Saunders by Hugh Dolan and Adrian Threlfall
Like Alfred’s War, this graphic novel focuses on the story of an Indigenous soldier. Reg Saunders was the first Indigenous Australian to serve as a commissioned officer in the army. Overcoming initial discrimination, his strong leadership qualities set him apart and led him to become a respected sergeant. This book importantly recognises one of our Indigenous heroes.
Loyal Creatures by Morris Gleitzman
Like Once, the first book in the well-loved series by Morris Gleitzman that explores war from the perspective of a young boy, Loyal Creatures returns to the theme of war, this time focusing on the experiences of a young Australian man and his horse, Daisy. The narrative is tied to key moments in Australia’s history, and depicts the special bond that existed between men and the animals they rode into war with.
The Divine Wind by Garry Disher
Hart, Alice, Jamie and Mitsy are friends growing up in Broome. In the midst of a golden period of youth, friendship and budding romance, Japan bombs Australia. Mitsy and her Japanese family become the victims of racism, and suddenly the group must decide where their loyalties lie. Garry Disher’s novel explores themes of intolerance, racism, friendship and love and the way these are heightened and tested during war.
The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett
A WWI soldier who has deserted his company is found by two young sisters in France. In return for their help, he tells them stories about donkeys – including the famous Simpson donkey that helped carry the wounded during the Gallipoli campaign. The story explores humanity and courage and the spirit of mateship that characterised the ANZACs.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Richard Flanagan based his Man Booker Prize-winning novel on the experiences of his father who was forced to work for the Japanese on the Thai-Burma railway as a prisoner of war. The novel details the physical, mental and emotional hardships the POWs endured – illness, starvation, despair, unimaginable brutality. The novel gives us glimpses into the later lives of the men who survived and their struggles to live with trauma and guilt.