Evie’s War by Anna Mackenzie.
This excellent novel about a New Zealand girl’s experiences in World War 1 can only be described as epic.
Written by Anna Mackenzie while in residency in Belgium by Passa Porta, International literary School.By her own admission she became engrossed and immersed in World War 1 to the point of obsession. I am glad she did because this novel is one incredible account of the Great War and of English Society.
Evie is 18 when she and her parents and older brother Edmund take a passage to UK with the intention of touring Europe. The shot that rang around the World changed all that and the family found themselves living with her aunt in circumstances that can only be described as Edwardian upper class with values akin to those of the characters in a Jane Austen novel.
Evie mixes with the English young ladies who describe her as having “colonial outspokenness”. She can do things that polite young ladies of status don’t do. In many ways it is Downton Abbey palaver with war an unwanted guest at the table.
Evie wants to do her bit and gets involved as a nurse treating the hordes of young men with their horrendous wounds while the newspapers are full of the glories of battle. To talk the truth is a total social no no with the only evidence of what is happening in the casualty lists in the papers.
Evie is courted by a wounded officer and in spite of the raw reality all around them the relationship is totally innocent and refreshingly naive.
Each year of the war from 1914 through to 1918 is depicted in diary entries from Evie’s journal. Historical facts are included in the diary entries and changes in society and perceptions of the war change. Edmund goes to war and what an intrepid tale his is.
Evie herself goes to Belgium as a driver and nurse for the whole of 1918 and the true horrors of this war are portrayed through the men she treats in the most primitive of conditions.
Superbly described by Anna Mackenzie. How about this- Evie’s piano playing is described as being like a “farmhand clumping over a cow paddock in hefty boots”. her wit is also evident when Evie is asked if the cannibals still ate human flesh “only on Sundays it is a delicacy”
Anna Mackenzie has clearly put her heart and soul into this novel and I think it is her best. So far!