When I was a child my family marked Anzac Day, 25 April, by climbing to the trig station on the hill behind our house. It was steep and – in my memory at least – often hot, in that blue-skied, bright, autumnal kind of way. Coming down was the best part – we generally slid, at some cost to our trousers, and with a degree of regret each time we discovered a seedling gorse bush tucked amongst the grass.
We understood that Anzac Day marked the blooding of New Zealand and Australian soldiers in the First World War, but understood less well that the Gallipoli Campaign was just the beginning of a costly and hideous waste of men's lives that would run on for years and that, though thousands of New Zealanders would die and be wounded in the Dardenelles, far more would be broken and slaughtered in the bloodbath of the Western Front in Belgium and France.
I gathered, like broken beads, fragments of my Grandfather's personal story of the war, in the Dardenelles and on the Western Front. As I grew older I tried to understand the impact his experiences had on his family at home, at the time and throughout his life. With the centenary of WWI approaching I became absorbed by a need to understand the First World War. I started to read – histories, diaries, letters. I visited the battlefields of Flanders, Artois and the Somme; I searched out buildings that had housed hospitals, empty fields that had hosted Casualty Clearing Stations, bunkers where men had sheltered and killed and died.
Evie's War, due out in July, tells the story of one woman's experience of those bloody and challenging years, of her coming of age in an era when the world was coming apart.
I can't wait to share it with you; it's a story I love, that I feel privileged to have created, and that has in some way helped me to understand, if not why we do the things that are are done, at least how we survive them.