Vietnam, My Australian Story by Deborah Challinor
Published by Scholastic Australia
Vietnam, part of the very popular My Australian Story series, is what I call a ‘faction’ story i.e. fiction based on true facts. Facts are expertly woven into the story and thus the reader is transported to that period and gains an understanding of the social and political mood of the time.
With the controversy over conscription, the political furore of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War and the unwarranted stigma attached to active and returning soldiers, I was intrigued as to how all of this could be portrayed in a novel aimed at teenagers.
Deborah Challinor has created a very likeable and level headed character in twelve year old Davey Walker and through his diary entries the reader is taken on a rollercoaster of emotions.
The diary starts on the day Davey’s older brother Tom is conscripted into the army via the birthday ballot. His father is proud and reminisces about his own experiences in the 2nd World War in New Guinea, his mother is anxious and anti- war, his sister is busy with her first job and boyfriend and Davey has mixed feelings.
Davey loves to surf, hang out with his mates and listen to the charts, but when his mother becomes a radical protestor, his teacher openly discusses communism and his brother writes conflicting letters of fun times with mates in the ‘boozer’ and mates blown to bits by mines, Davey is confused and looks for answers and understanding.
Through Davey’s entries we are given an insight into the politics and political leaders of that time, Australia’s relationship with America, the excitement of the first moon landing and the effect that the Vietnam War had on army personnel, families and society.
Vietnam, My Australian Story, is an easy, insightful and at times an emotional read of a defining tumultuous period in Australia’s history and I recommend it for 10 +. Adults will enjoy a trip down memory lane but be prepared for a mixture of emotions.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Deborah Challinor
Title: Vietnam, My Australian Story
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: July 2015