Books & Literature

Book Review: Anzac Girl, by Kate Simpson

PICTURE BOOK: For ages 7+. The true story of Anzac girl Sister Alice Ross-King, the most decorated woman in Australia.

A wonderful portrayal of an incredibly brave young nurse, dealing with the horrors and heartache of WWI.

What an incredible book!

Beautifully presented in hardcover with brilliant illustrations by Jess Racklyeft, combined with contemporary photographs, maps and diary extracts to tell the moving story of Alice Ross-King, an Australian nurse in the First World War. Kate Simpson is the great granddaughter of Alice Ross-King and has woven a poignant narrative, working from the war diaries of her ancestor, into and around Jess Racklyeft’s wonderful work.

Sister Ross-King had only ever wanted to be a nurse and when war came to Europe in 1914, like many thousands of young men, she felt the need to serve her country. She was well-trained and was ready but nothing could have prepared Alice for the horror of war and the terrible injuries inflicted by modern weapons. There is a terrific full page illustration of a hospital ward, the beds packed in, with five long rows fading away into the distance, each occupied by a wounded soldier.

The book also conveys the joy Alice found in Cairo when she fell in love with an Australian soldier, Harry Moffitt. She writes in her diary about them taking tea on top of a pyramid and Harry promising to give her a dress just the colour of the sunset when they are married. Snatched moments were all that they had and all too soon, Alice’s hospital was moved to Rouen in France to try and cope with the awful death toll in the trenches – with 20,000 wounded passing through the city in just one day in July 1916. Sadly, Harry was one of the casualties of the war and they never saw each other again.

Although heartbroken, Alice continued to work in the hospital and at casualty clearing stations even closer to the front. But finally there was an end – at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 the Armistice was signed. There is an extract from her diary on 12th November which talks of people dancing in the street.

Alice never forgot her time in the war but she did make a happy life for herself. Her story was told from letters and diaries which are now in the Australian War Memorial. This book is a poignant record of a brave woman’s service in wartime.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Distributed by: Allen and Unwin
Released: March 2020
RRP: $24.99

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