We can always smell them before we see them.
Today it’s bad, really bad, but not as bad as the first time, because then we had no conception of just what we’d see when the wooden doors of the train slid back. Then, that first time, we’d all surged eagerly forward as soon as the train stopped, ready to help, prepared to assist those who could walk and carry those who couldn’t.
And then it hit us.
It was overpowering. It stopped us dead in our rush forward; made us stagger back. It wasn’t heat, or dust, or blowing sand – in Egypt, we were used to those – but a smell. It was more than a smell. It was a stench. So strong it grabbed deep into our throats; made us cough and choke, made our eyes pour water. I’d never smelled anything like it before; couldn’t begin to think what it was.
I know now.
Flora and her archaeologist father regularly travel to Egypt, but this time things are different. From the moment they arrive and are collected in a motor car, Flora knows this trip is going to be full of new experiences. After all she’s almost sixteen and it’s 1914. She’s looking forward to a summer of helping her father and parties with her friend Gwen, if only her father, Gwen’s mother and her brother Frank would stop trying to cosset them. They are modern girls and are ready for all that life will bring. But nothing has prepared Flora or her friends for the upcoming war and how it will affect their lives. Cairo is awash with soldiers, many of them Australian, training in the desert and spending their leisure time in town. They are waiting to go to war. And then they do. Flora and her friends discover that the war is closer than they could have thought possible. Close enough to touch all of them.
Flora is excited that this year in Cairo, she will be treated as an adult, not a child. She will experience everything, sharing it with her close friend Gwen, whose family also spend time every year in Cairo. Being treated like an adult means that she can learn to drive, a wonderful rite of independence. But with independence comes responsibility and Flora learns that casting aside childhood means learning about the ways of the adult world. War accelerates this and Flora’s Warexplores themes of love and loss, fear and bravery. Excitement is tempered by danger, archaeological discovery by moral dilemmas. For Flora, war is a rite of passage that alters her, her friends and her world in ways she could never have imagined.
Flora’s War, Pamela Rushby Ford St Publishing 2013 ISBN: 9781921665981
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author