Evie’s War, by Anna Mackenzie

War, and everything it encompasses, becomes increasingly personal for 18-year-old Evie and her family. Straight out of school the New Zealand teenager is excited about the prospect of a tour of Europe. However, she finds herself immersed in war; first in the Home Counties – where she is confronted by society’s restrictions, her family’s expectations and the burgeoning women’s right movement – and then as a VAD nurse tending to injured soldiers in a local hospital.

After a personal tragedy changes the course of her life, Evie impulsively travels to Belgium, experiencing first hand the shambles and horrors in a Casualty Clearing Station just 10km behind the front lines.

Mackenzie has spent the past three years immersed in researching the history, experiences and legacy of the Great War. Her meticulous research pays off. The story, while a work of fiction, is historically accurate throughout.

Told in diary format, Evie’s War sets out to provide a voice for the stories less frequently told. It tells of families and communities in both England and New Zealand, of women at home and at the Front, of children too young to serve but not to see, of the survivors and the scarred.

It is hard to follow at times simply due to the large cast of characters. Evie is compassionate and loving and therefore each patient leaves a mark on her heart, and therefore in her diary. The core characters are all well developed, although only seen through the eyes of Evie.

The diary format does have its benefits. It protects those at whom the book is aimed – young adults. War is, quite simply, horrific. Evie, as a nurse, sees some of the horrendous and very real injuries sustained by the men fighting. The diary means those injuries are not dwelled on for too long and are therefore not too off putting for the sensitive younger reader.

This is a book that captures the reluctant reader – it is fast paced, an easy read and very interesting. A fantastic read from an award winning New Zealand author.

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Rebekah is an Otago-based mother of two young girls. The former journalist and primary school teacher has a soft spot for New Zealand authors and young adult fiction. Follow her on Twitter.

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