Today is the 54th Anniversy of Vietnam Veteran’s Day.
As a teenager I remember watching Tour of Duty on TV, but it wasn’t until recently that I really gained an understanding of what the show was actually about. As a teenager we weren’t taught anything about the Vietnam War which seems incredible considering the long term repercussions for the soldiers who fought in it. I still feel ignorant about this time in history, but thanks to some great novels now being written about it I am beginning to gain some understanding and knowledge.
The song ‘I was only 19’ by Redgum, was always an emotional song, but through my reading over the past 12 months, it has gained new meaning.
Now I feel I understand it so much more.
I’d like to share a couple of the novels that have made an impact on me and given me a small education about this terrible war.
First up is New Zealand author Carole Brungar, she has written 2 incredible novels around the Vietnam War and the young men and women who served their country. Carole says “I set out with the aim to make readers stop and think about what our veterans experienced and in many cases still are experiencing.” These two novels certainly do that and I highly recommend them both.
The Nam Legacy: The Nam Legacy is an epic love story set during the 60’s and 70’s. When the Rolling Stones and Jefferson Airplane drove parents crazy, teenagers found sexual freedom and peace slogans covered placards. When the Vietnam War abducted the nation’s young men and sent them to fight in New Zealand’s most controversial campaign.
After eighteen months in Vietnam, New Zealand soldier Jack Coles thought killing others to stay alive would be the hardest thing he would ever have to live with. He was wrong. Although the nightmare of what he saw and did haunt him constantly, what tortures him the most, is what he has left behind.
Not everyone who lost his life in Vietnam died there, not everyone who came home from Vietnam ever left there.
The Nam Legacy is Jack’s story
My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
New Zealand author Carole Brungar has written a powerful story, starting just before the Vietnam war and continuing through the war; we see the impact the war has on everyday people and their loved ones. The people in this story had hopes and dreams, some they were able to follow and some got derailed. Evie and Jack were a great couple and Terry was the sort of friend anyone could ask for. The scenes in Vietnam were incredibly realistic and I could see myself there in the midst of things with Jack and Terry. The trials these characters went through, the growth and change, made for an emotional story which at time required tissues. It looks at PTSD which nothing was really known about back then, certainly not how to deal with it and help people. I look forward to Carole’s next book.
The Nam Shadow: From the author of the bestselling novel The Nam Legacy comes The Nam Shadow.
To carefree, naive, young soldier Terry Edwards, life’s an adventure. But how easy is it to cope with the extreme fear and intense emotions that come with the war in Vietnam, when you know life balances on the accuracy of a bullet in meeting its target? Sometimes, taking chances is the only way to stay alive.
For combat photographer Frankie Proctor, every young soldier in Vietnam has a story to tell. The problem is, can she tell it before the war claims them? Or her? Her days are filled with bloodshed and death. Sometimes, the only way to cope is to grab any opportunity you can to celebrate that you’re still alive.
Destined to belong to a brotherhood of men who live in the shadow of Nam, Terry finds himself fighting a war he never saw coming. As Vietnam eats away at him from the inside, can he outrun the shadow? Can Frankie?
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” – Norman Cousins
The Nam Shadow is Terry’s story.
My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I have just finished The Nam Shadow and I have to say I was have blown away. I loved The Nam Legacy, but this was just wow, what an amazing story. I absolutely loved reading Terry’s story, I thought he was the best friend a person could have in the first book, but he was so much more. And Frankie, she was awesome, what a character. The relationship between Terry and Frankie was so powerful and important, especially during those times in Vietnam and I was kept hoping until the end that they would both get a happy ending. Carole Brungar took me back into that war zone, back into everything those boys and Frankie went through and ripped my heart out several times.
This story covers some important issues such as PTSD and the medical issues that the majority of Vietnam Vets and their children have suffered from due to Agent Orange issues that were denied for many years.
An incredible and moving story that I highly recommend.
In The Valley of Blue Gums by J.H. Fletcher: Journalist Thea Anderson’s adventurous life has been one of endless danger. Even her childhood, where she and her mother were forced to flee Malaya in the fish–stinking hold of a junk in the dying days of colonialism, was fraught with peril.
For a time it seemed she would find safe harbour in Tasmania in the arms of winemaker Peter Torrance, but her restless spirit cannot be contained. Thea’s ambition is to travel the world as a foreign correspondent but Peter is dedicated to his family vineyard in a blue gum valley: it seems their love must fail.
Thea makes her name internationally with her coverage of the assassination of President Kennedy then the escalating war in Vietnam, one of the only women in the field. Her job leads her further into peril and death stalks her all the way, until a return to Tasmania opens the door to a new and exciting career.
Will this opportunity allow her to become reunited with the man she used to love? Or has that dream vanished, like mist in the valley of blue gums?
My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This book was so good, I loved the dual timelines, I probably enjoyed the Vietnam storyline the best, but it was all great. This is the first book by J.H Fletcher I’ve read and I must remedy that, I really enjoyed the writing and the way he is able to describe things and make me feel like I am completely there and experiencing life along with the characters. It also shows that the media and the way it continually distorts the truth is not a new thing, the way Thea’s company tries to manipulate the story she wants to tell about Vietnam to suit the story the government wants told is so spot on for the way things are today also. I enjoyed all the relationships throughout the story, and the way love can be with different people. Though I haven’t been to Tasmania, after reading this I kind of feel I’ve been there, and I would definitely like to visit. I recommend this for lovers of historical fiction.
And lastly, but definitely not least is
Love and Other Battles by Tess Woods:
Free-spirited hippie Jess James has no intention of falling for a soldier … but perhaps some things are not in our power to stop.
1989: Jess’s daughter, Jamie, dreams of a simple life – marriage, children, stability – then she meets a struggling musician and suddenly the future becomes wilder and complex.
2017: When Jamie’s daughter, CJ, brings home trouble in the form of the coolest boy at school, the worlds of these three women turn upside down … and the past returns to haunt them.
Spanning the trauma of the Vietnam War to the bright lights of Nashville, the epidemic of teenage self-harm to the tragedy of incurable illness, Love and Other Battles is the heart-wrenching story of three generations of Australian women, who learn that true love is not always where you seek it.
My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
There are three time lines threaded through this novel and three generations, all connected in the present 2017 timeline.
CJ, a Seventeen year old high-school student is dealing with and going through so many things, my heart was in my throat for the first half of this novel whenever I came to her chapters. This novel took me a lot longer to read than it normally would, not because it wasn’t good, it was fabulous, but because CJ’s plight triggered my anxiety and I had to put the book down everytime I read her part of the story. This says much about Tess’s ability to write characters that are completely relatable. The fact I could put myself in CJ’s story so completely despite having passed that point over 20 years ago is impressive. I was also able to completely relate to CJ’s mum Jamie and her struggle despite not having children of my own and Jamie’s mum, Jess’s dilemmas also, despite never having had a love like hers or never having had to deal with the turmoil and decisions she is being forced to deal with. Three generations and I could put myself in each of their shoes.
Today’s youth have an even tougher time than when I went through school. I dealt with much of what CJ deals with, but at least I didn’t have to deal with the added threat and fallout of social media and smart phones. They may have their benefits, but they most certainly have their downfalls, and the issues our children deal with need to be bought into the forefront of society’s minds and youth of both sexes need to be educated in how to behave, how to treat people and how to deal with these issues when they do arise.
Jess’s timeline starts in the time of the Vietnam War, I’ve recently read a couple of novels set during this time, which I think added an extra layer to this timeline for me. Reading about Jess and Frank and their dreams, beliefs and differences and the reality of the Vietnam war, was one of my favourite dynamics in this novel.
Jamie’s story, starting in 2000 wasn’t as involved as the other two time lines, but had a huge bearing on CJ’s story and on who Jamie is in 2017.
I loved this novel, once I passed the worst of what CJ was going through, I couldn’t put the book down until I’d finished. I thoroughly enjoyed all three timeline stories and loved the way they entwined together to form the bigger picture. This is a heartwarming and thought-provoking novel, that will take you on a journey of emotions, it’s a story of love, family, secrets and so much more, dealing with many issues that need to have people thinking and talking.
Out this month is the movie Danger Close – The Battle of Long Tan which I think is going to be a hard movie to watch, but one with a story that needs to be told.
I pay my respects to those who fought in this war, those who lost their lives and those who live with the devastating fallout of this war.