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Bibliophile: The Red Rose of Romance and War

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Lezly Herbert reviews a novel from local writer John A Yates. The semi-retired author lives in Belmont.

The Red Rose of Romance and War

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by John A Yates

Balboa Press

Wilf Yates was just a boy from the bush who drove a team of bullocks. He had not travelled more than fifty miles from his home and wanted to see the world. So he went to Sydney and enlisted as a soldier in 1916. It was not long before he was marching miles in the rain and wading through muddy trenches in France and Belgium.

Shipped off to London to recover from trench foot, he is cared for by Nurse Ann Davis and romance blossoms before he is thrown back into a front line trench in Flanders. The reader gets thrown into the muddy hell hole with the constant hunger, the lice, the constant artillery noise and the mustard gas. There was also the smell of rotting carcasses: “the stench of death gripping them by the throat.”

Letters were written to loved ones at home in Australia and replies were received and read at leave time. More injuries meant that Wilf was able to spend more time with Ann, but London was being bombed as well. Ann disappeared, thought to have been killed. When the chaos of war ended, Wilf went back to his life in Australia, but the effects of the war were to continue.

This thoroughly researched story details the battles and even includes photographs. John Yates recreates the impossibly harsh situations the young men found themselves in while generals enjoyed comfortable beds and sumptuous meals many miles behind the lines, “issuing instructions to carry out impossible tasks”. There is also a touch of mystery and romance for John Yates is the youngest son of a World War I veteran and nurse, and it was his parents’ romance that inspired his novel.

Lezly Herbert

Read all our book reviews in the Bibliophile section. 

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