4 out of 4 stars
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If you like meandering historical fiction that laboriously details every fact and figure as you plod through the past, then The Warramunga’s War by Greg Kater is not for you. Admittedly I am not a history buff, and I began with a very high level of cynicism that this was going to be yet another war story. Fortunately, this was a fun, easy-to-read adventure with the right amount of mystery, intrigue, humour and plot twists to keep me turning the pages. Set during the second World War, it is based on the friendship and experiences of two Australians who meet in the Middle East and develop a working relationship that takes them to Northern Australia, spanning many countries and cultures effortlessly.
The main characters are Jamie or James Munro, an Australian soldier with few attachments ‘back home’ and Jacko or Jack O’Brien, another Australian whose mother was a Warramunga woman from Tenant Creek in the Northern Territory. They meet on the battlefield, but thereafter their association is on a different type of battlefield; undercover work to unearth spies and traitors attached to the various new intelligence services that sprung up during World War ll. Their friendship is very easy going and they are both likeable characters reflecting the mateship and camaraderie that I have heard existed between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal soldiers serving in the armed forces during the war. It was my interest in Jacko’s character that made me choose the book in the first place and I found that he and his culture were portrayed in a respectful way.
Starting off in Cairo, where most of the story is set, they develop a network of friends and informers, including local women who entertain the troops, allowing us an insight into what life was like during the war years. There is plenty of action and intrigue as well as humour as Jacko, who manages to pass himself off as a local on occasion, teaches Jamie some tricks. It reads like any good spy novel with the advantage that after the main characters are shipped off to Australia with the rest of the troops, they manage to continue working for intelligence agencies, in very different circumstances with new assignments, plot twists and danger.
Greg Kater has managed to integrate fascinating facts about the culture, war efforts, geography and historical events of the time into a parallel, classic story of the good guys helping catch the bad guys, giving just enough detail to have me wanting to know more and seriously putting me at risk of becoming a history buff after all. What is a particularly refreshing technique used for covering large swathes of time are the meetings of many of the main characters in coffee shops, celebrations and pubs where we catch up on the history and events since the last paragraph while they engage in light banter and not always very appetising food.
I rate this book unreservedly four out of four stars as I am now waiting for the next two books in the trilogy. I recommend it for anyone who likes a good yarn, interesting plots and subplots and insights into a very interesting time in the world’s history.
The Warramunga's War
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