War child by Annette Janic with Catherine McCullagh
Big Sky Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781925275599
(Age: Senior secondary 15+) War child is the intensely personal story by Annette Janic which holds historical information uncovered digging into her family history after the death of her mother, Magdalena. Annette is a first generation Australian, her parents and older brother arrived as refugees after World War 1.
The story focuses on Magdalena, Leni, is an illegitimate child born pre-World War II in a small town in Germany. As a child, Leni and her mother live in poverty, after being shunned by the townsfolk. There is a lot of detail about her childhood that only the subject could reveal. The novel has several focus areas, Leni's childhood, joining the Hitler youth, shocking sexual abuse by an employer, fleeing the Red Army and then migrating to Australia as a German ex-pat in the 1950s and is written in three main parts. It is important to note here that the sexual abuse is very graphic. While the novel touches on many relevant topics of a senior school Australian History curriculum, the way this biography is written would frankly turn a lot of students off.
For the lover of true non-fiction prose, this novel went into details which kept the reader interested and keen to find out more. Although for others, the author's expressive prose would overwhelm, particularly at the beginning. Part 3, The ending, promising intrigue, seemed rushed. The story of Leni was interesting and would appeal to those who enjoy personal stories and wartime history. However, after being promised the thrill of unravelling secrets, I found the ending a little bizarre.