Drawn in part from the authors combat experience in France during WW I, the novel is an exploration of the lives of soldiers in the Australian Imperial Force from the Ypres campaign in 1917 until just before the Armistice. The plot follows three soldiers in the same battalionCharl Bentley, a naive and handsome raw recruit eager for combat; Frank Jeffreys, a schoolteacher whose intellect and anxiety have led to disillusionment; and Jim Blount, a resourceful and courageous warrior-hero who remains undaunted by battle despite being wounded. The novel bears an unmistakable Australian point of view, particularly in its wry sense of humor in spite of the dark subject matter and in its vehement disdain for British commanders who viewed the AIF volunteers as disposable.
Leonard Mann (1885-1981) served in the Australian Imperial Force during World War I and with the Department of Aircraft Production in World War II. He wrote seven other novels. Janette Turner Hospital is the Carolina Distinguished Professor of Literature and Distinguished Writer-in-Residence in the Department of English at the University of South Carolina. She is the author of several collections of short fiction, a novella, and eight novels - most recently, Orpheus Lost.
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