Review Blog

May 15 2019

Follow after me by Allison Marlow Paterson

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Big Sky Publishing, 2019. ISBN: 9781925675580.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Themes: World War I; Romance; War; Family history. This is cross-generational story involving both a World War I story and a contemporary coming of age drama and romantic tale. It is compelling, romantic and sad, and yet also has heart-warming qualities. In 1916 we hear of the young girl Evie, whose boyfriend, Tom, goes to war with four of his five brothers. Sadly, only two of the young family members will return home. The heartbreak for one family is intense, and for Evie the uncertainty is also heart-rending. In a time when letters provide an opportunity to share one's heart, Evie and Tom share their lives and love despite the separation of war.
Generations later, these letters and their insights into the past, with the other family communications from the brothers, are rediscovered by Lizzie's family in an abandoned and slightly ghostly family home. Lizzie is encouraged to read the letters, but is going through some personal turmoil and contemporary challenges. Her friendship choices, social media, school and romantic life have taken a twist that threatens to create her own dramatic conflict with potentially disastrous consequences. A social encounter involving alcohol and a potential sexual assault reveals the danger to which poor choices can lead. A gentle fellow student and a protective older brother prove to be her heroes and more trustworthy than her new friends. As these two story threads are woven together, the author reveals the intensity and dangers that impact relationships can have similar elements across the generations, but the stresses of the times are quite different. Both storylines are gripping and the insights into the Anzac soldier's life are compelling.
Allison Marlow Paterson has based her World War I story line on her own family history detailed in her non-fiction work, Anzac Sons. Because of the truths of the circumstances from her own ancestry, this story resonates with tragedy. The facts of the war are well-detailed from her own research, and using her own family records and information from the Australian War Memorial. The setting of both generational tales in rural Australia is also revealing. The modern storyline incorporates many modern dramas - sexting, the dangers of choosing the 'wrong' friends, social media dilemmas, and the misunderstandings across generations. Lizzie's school visit to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is a turning point in the book and for anyone who has visited, will remind them of the solemn experience.
This is a very readable book, and will stay with the reader for some time. Romantic and sad; confronting and gentle . . . and worthy of recommendation. Highly recommended for those who love social history, aged 14+.
Carolyn Hull

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