Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book 69 - Monsters of Blood and Honour by Ken Catran - New Zealand

This is three novellas depicting teenagers interacting with war veterans from World War 2. The first story is about a cranky old man, Mr Parkin, who confronts the local teenage drag racers about their terrorizing the elderly residents of a retirement village with their night racing along the long stretch of road. This confrontation leads to one of the teens, Jase, wanting to get revenge for the old man shaming him. He begins to research the Lancaster Bomber squadrons that Parkin is so proud to have flown for. As Jase confronts him with this new information of the devastation the Bombers caused in Germany the teenager experiences a passionate counter attack as Parkin invites him in to listen to the tapes he has made for the oral history project. As you would expect perceptions change as Jase listens to the description of the terrors the Lancaster crews faced each night as they flew their missions.

The second story is about a young woman who is asked to care for her stern spinster great aunt. The rest of the family is unable to be with her so it falls to the girl to stay with her aunt who has been unwell recently. As their weekend together progresses it turns out that the aunt has been writing her account of the fall of Singapore and her time in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. 

The last story is the most unusual. It is the account of a reclusive old man and his encounter with a teen who discovers that the man was involved is the largest tank battle at Kursk on the Russian border. The old man was in the German Panzer division and has terrible secrets to hide from his neighbours.

The book has a moving epilogue of a veteran attending ANZAC day commemoration. 

In each story the links between the veterans and the teens are tenuous and a little contrived. The retelling of the war stories are well researched and compelling which is the redeeming feature of this book. 

Bob from National Library NZ reviews the book. Trevor Agnew's review