This is “An Australian Saga”, but moreover it is the story of one woman, her live, her loves, and to an extent, her mistakes. This is the tale of a family in many generations, a man admired, missed and in charge of an Empire. With many brothers, confused emotions and the burdens of forces beyond her control, Noble has created a huge story that encompasses so much war and danger. For Sadie’s Wars are both world changing fights that she can only hear about, read about, and can guess at through their effects on those she loves. Guilt, passion and love all dominate this novel, and it is set against landscapes and urban life that gives glimpses of both a new land and the old. I was pleased to be asked to read and review this book as part of a blog tour.
Sandie’s story is told in two parts of her life. The opening chapter describes Sadie in her forties, living in Cleethorpes, England in June 1940. She has three adult sons, Henry, Dale and Glen. It soon becomes clear that all three have joined the Air Force, the older two are already pilots, and therefore at risk in so many ways. On the summer day described they are all at home, but ready to depart to their various airfields. She is determined to make the most of this final day with all of them, as Glen prepares to journey to his first posting. The other narration then appears, as she is seen as growing up in Australia with a large family of several brothers, an adored mother and an ambitious and largely absent father. A dizzying succession of houses, farms, schools and homes follows, as Sadie is forced to accept changes in her family through disasters and loss. Her father is a brilliant entrepreneur, driven to improve the transport across the vast countryside, keen to begin different projects such as farms which are incredibly difficult to maintain in a harsh countryside. As she grows into adulthood, she meets men who admire her, but the shadow of a World War is beginning to have an effect. The big question of whether to join up to fight is one for every young man she knows, but how can she understand what is the best as propaganda and peacemakers have their effects on every young man she knows or loves. Noble faithfully records Sadie’s reactions to the changes and challenges of her life, as the narrative plunges between the young Sadie and her marriage and motherhood, and the much older woman discovering her own strengths in another setting thousands of miles from the land of her birth.
Whether it was the well realised Australian setting or the frequent challenges Sadie faces concerning her brothers in a harsh landscape, I was often reminded of “Thorn Birds” and the huge challenges that were faced by so many in Australia’s vast spaces. In many ways this book is two novels, the younger Sadie and all the challenges she faces in Australia as the First World War rages many miles away, and the older woman coming to terms with potential loss and the fear of danger on the Home Front. There is romance and brutal passion in this book; it is certainly no cheerful soft and gentle tale of love in trying circumstances. It is a clever analysis of the possibilities of life, the choices made and the inevitability of difficulties. I found it an admirable read, with some harshness and lack of joy, but a worthwhile fictional account of a life as it was thoroughly lived by a woman.
We celebrated our Wedding Anniversary in fine style in Coventry yesterday. We visited the Cathedrals, Old and New, and wandered around the shops. Yes, I did find a bookshop! We finished up in the Belgrade theatre in which I first saw many plays and opera. We saw “Over the Top”, a short, funny play with a tiny cast of four concerning women in the First World War. As it was early in its run it was still settling, but it was well written and realised. It was good to be back!