Evie’s War by Anna Mackenzie, Longacre (Penguin Random House NZ)
Speaking personally, the best thing about the centenaries associated with World War One is the surge of historical books coming on to the New Zealand market. I was looking forward to reading Anna Mackenzie’s YA novel about a (fictional) New Zealand nurse, and I wasn’t disappointed. Anna has proved herself an expert in writing fantasy – and her skills have carried over into this vivid diary-style story. At the end of a book is an Acknowledgements section – which I read first, and would recommend other readers to do the same. It details the background to the writing of the book and describes the extensive research Anna undertook.
Evie is a spirited New Zealand teenager who has just finished school and is about to do a tour round Europe with her family (it’s 1914). However war breaks out while they are staying with family in England, and their plans fall apart. Evie is caught up in the nationalistic fervour of the early war period and eventually becomes a nurse. As she cares for scores of badly injured young men she realises the true horror of warfare. She eventually travels to France and does a stint as an ambulance driver and a frontline nurse.
The story is grim but the author brings Evie and her Edwardian contemporaries to life, despite the limitations of the diary format. The reader virtually smells the stench of injured and mud-covered men, at the same time worrying about the fate of Evie’s brother and fiancé who are both soldiers. Through it all Evie bravely struggles on, determined to do her bit to support the soldiers in her care. By the end of the war she has truly grown up.
Recommended for all public and secondary school libraries – and to YA readers who want to know what it was REALLY like.
ISBN 978 1 77553 765 6 (also available as an e-book) RRP $19.99 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
I read 'Evie's War' too, and highly recommend it.