Those girls by Pamela Rushby

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Those Girls, written by well-known author Pamela Rushby, is Australian historical fiction giving an engaging account of the role the Australian Women’s Land Army (AWLA) played during World War Two. Land Army girls often dealt with prejudice, petty jealousies from local communities, unwanted advances from males, some dire living conditions yet quietly set about making an invaluable contribution to Australia’s war effort on the home front.

Set in Queensland between 1942 to 1945, this entertaining story is about young sixteen-year-old Hilly who has just finished school and longs to do her part for the war effort. Her brother Graham is missing-in-action in Singapore and her fractured relationship with her parents is a source of constant bewilderment for Hilly.

Hilly is accepted in to the AWLA and with her close friend Liz is sent to the Lockyer Valley to harvest potatoes. There they meet other land girls and while it does not work out for Liz, Hilly forms a strong bond with Aileen and Glad. The three travel together to farms across Queensland where they experience tough conditions, some difficult farmers, backbreaking work but always manage to find a sense of purpose and fulfilment in their role. The three girls also deal with personal and family issues and support each other with humour and wisdom. When Hilly decides to head off on her own to a farm to assist with shearing, she is surprised at how strong, tough and resilient she has become.

Throughout the book, it is heartening to see how Hilly matures and grows into her own person. With an American fiancé pressing her to join him at his family farm in the USA, indifferent parents with a long-held secret and an uncertain future, it is reaffirming to see Hilly choose her own path.

In the final pages of the novel Pamela Rushby gives further valuable information about the AWLA and the struggles they had for recognition. Those Girls is fascinating read that is important for learning about the AWLA and looking at the changing roles of women in Australia during and after World War Two. An excellent resource for Australian Curriculum Year 10 History – World War Two studies.

Themes: World War Two, Historical Fiction, Women’s Land Army, Social Expectations, Friendships, Loyalty, Romance, Adventure.

Kathryn Beilby