Good Reading : May 2011
MAY 2011 ı goodreading 7 book club NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE MONTH Gallipoli David Cameron Big Sky Publishing $34.99 There have been many books written on Gallipoli, and yet few focus on the logistics of safely evacuating all soldiers off the peninsula under the keen eyes of the Turks. Imagine the logistics involved in calling a halt to a tragic campaign that over eight months saw 50 000 men fight for a battle-worn piece of real estate at the cost of so many lives. The final 10 days would see the troops reduced from 35 000 to just 250 soldiers in the last few hours of the evacuation.This is a feat that would now seem impossible to undertake. David Cameron's new book gives us a detailed insight into the tragic battles and the final evacuation of Gallipoli that has not been widely told since the time of war correspondent Charles Bean.The evacuation -- 'the grand finale to a spectacular, if unsuccessful campaign' -- would be the most successful part of the whole Gallipoli fiasco. Cameron's strong nar rative and detailed history provide a superb perspective on logistically and politically fraught events that led up to and took place during the evacuation. He includes details, mechanics and tactical ruses employed to pull it off -- especially the last stage of the evacuation, which was clearly the most dangerous. Cameron also gives a voice to the men who where there. His research and use of firsthand accounts -- including letters, diaries and interviews, many of which have not been published until now -- of the men at Gallipoli pays homage to their humour and sacrifice.When the evacuation orders were given, most of the men were glad to be leaving, but they hated to leave their dead mates. The mix of emotions ensured that the experience of leaving would be tinged with excitement and sadness. 1. What are your views on the ongoing pilgrimages to Anzac Cove and their effect on the conservation of the area? 2. Australia's population was 6 million in 1915 when the Battle of Gallipoli took place. Over the eight months of this tragic battle 8700 Australians died. Was the campaign at Gallipoli a failure? 3. Should Gallipoli have been evacuated earlier? 4. Were the battles in August at Lone Pine and Hill 60 -- marked by a huge casualty list for the gain of only a few hundred metres -- events that could or should have been avoided? 5. Gallipoli was called a 'sideshow' by politicians and senior military commanders. Why? 6. Were Murdoch and Bartlett cor rect in their actions in bypassing the military censor to seriously criticise the Gallipoli Campaign? 7. The evacuation was agreed upon on 7 December and completed on 19 and 20 December 1915 -- could today's defence force successfully undertake a similar task? 8. Why is Gallipoli -- a battle that played such a minor part in World War I -- so important to Australia? books of the month Take a thrilling ride with the power of words in wartime Germany, or find out why the battle at Gallipoli in 1915 marked a turning point for Australia. For more questions and discussion ideas for your book club for both The Book Thief and Gallipoli go to www.goodreadingmagazine.com.au and click on ‘Book Clubs’ on the bookmark on the left of the screen. FICTION BOOK OF THE MONTH The Book Thief Markus Zusak Picador $19.95 It is 1939 in Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Liesel Meminger and her younger brother are being taken by their mother to live with a foster family outside Munich. Liesel's father was taken away on the breath of a single, unfamiliar word -- Kommunist -- and Liesel sees the fear of a similar fate in her mother's eyes. On the jour ney, Death visits the young boy -- and notices Liesel. It will be the first of many near encounters. By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, lear ns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library -- and wherever books can be found. But these are dangerous times.When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down. 1. Guilt is one of the key themes in this novel -- the terrible burden that people who survive feel when they know others have not been so fortunate. The children of survivors also feel this pain and feel the shadow cast by their parents. Discuss. 2. Rosa Huber mann seems unlovable (p 35) and yet she has a lot of love to give and 'was a good woman for a crisis'.(p 230) Are seemingly angry people simply protecting themselves from the hurt that inevitably lies in human relationships? Discuss. 3. 'Is there cowardice in the acknowledgement of fear? Is there cowardice in being glad that you lived?' (p 115). Are young men who risk their lives -- in battle, or in boxing rings, or at the wheels of cars -- brave or foolish? Zusak's children's books have also masterfully explored notions of masculinity and courage in obliquely poetic and sparely written nar ratives. Is 'being a man' a metaphor for courage or foolhardiness? Discuss. 4. How ordinary people tolerated the excesses of Nazism is illustrated by the points made by Alex Steiner (pages 61--62). Such movements prey on insecurities, and fear of unemployment, loss of livelihood, poverty and of not being able to support one's family. Later the narrator explains that 'It would all have come to nothing had the Germans not loved one particular activity -- to burn' (p 90). Compare this to global and Australian toleration of atrocities today. 5. 'I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sandcastles, houses of cards, that's where they begin.Their great skill is their capacity to escalate.' (p 118) Does the capacity for violence exist in all of us? 6. Zusak's picture of survival is visceral and real, rather than being romanticised, as it often is in Hollywood interpretations. Discuss the manner in which the reality of war and its mundaneness is presented in The Book Thief.