When exploring the Great War, storytellers have commonly focused their energies upon depicting the horrors experienced by soldiers on the battlefield and, to a lesser extent, the role of women (Vera Brittain) acting in medical service roles. However, it is the period after the armistice, particularly from the Australian context, that has been scantly covered in literature. Kirsty Murray’s story The Year it All Ended explores the aftermath of this significant episode in history, through the eyes of a 17 year old Australian girl Tiney Flynn.
Tiney lives in Adelaide and begins her story describing the overwhelming joy of Armistice Day. This elation is swiftly overshadowed by the homecoming of survivors; men whose lives are irrevocably impaired by their physical and emotional injuries. The war has left Australia facing economic and social challenges further complicated by the Spanish influenza epidemic. The new age that Tiney enters is both scary and exciting and it is one where the hopes and dreams for her future are uncertain.
The Year it All Ended effectively supports the Australian Curriculum for History, specifically at year 9 level. In this situation excerpts of the text might be utilised for close reading to investigate the period of history described. Although time constraints may limit a complete examination of the text, this could be offered to select students as an extension task within this subject. Similarly, the story could operate as an engaging text for class study within English, and if undertaken at year 9 or 10, provides numerous opportunities for cross-curricular links to History. The story delivers obvious comparisons to war poetry (Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen), film (Gallipoli), or other war novels depicting the period (All Quiet on the Western Front). Furthermore, senior students might find this an appealing text for independent analysis, and one that is effortlessly paired with the likes of Jackie French’s A Rose for the ANZAC Boys(Allen & Unwin, 2008).
Written in sensitive prose, The Year it all Ended is an emotionally moving account of an Australia poised precariously on the edge of social change.
Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden
**Allen & Unwin provided me with a free review copy for this book. I have otherwise not been paid for any review or endorsement of this book and my opinions reflect my own unbiased view.***