Book Club Pick: April 2019
Title: 1914: Riding into war
Author: Susan Brocker
Series: Kiwis at war series, book 1
Country: New Zealand
Publisher: Scholastic New Zealand
First Published: 2014
Billy may have been fresh off the farm, but he was a good rider and an even better shot. When the world went to war in 1914, Kiwis rushed to enlist. For Billy and his best mate, Jack, joining the Mounted Rifles Regiment held the promise of adventure – little did they know that half the battle would lie in keeping their horses alive aboard the troopship as the journeyed halfway around the world.
Seventeen-year-old Billy Bowman, nicknamed Billy the Kid because of his youthful looks, is excited to enlist when war is declared in August 1914 and leave his farm job in small town New Zealand for an exciting adventure.
Billy lies about his age and he and his friend Jack Thompson and their two horses Tui and Spirit join the Mountain Rifles Regiment.
The story follows Billy and Jack’s training at Awapuni, their trip by sea to Egypt, and more training before they are sent to fight at Gallipoli without their horses.
The horses are also important characters and the boys’ relationships with their horses are an integral part of the story. Sadly we often overlook the number of horses that were killed in war.
Brocker is passionate about horses. She lives on a small farm with horses and many pets. She has written several books about horses, including Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses, a true story of Bess, one of only four horses to return from war.
The book also features a map of the ‘Journey of the NZ Expeditionary Force, October-December 1914’; timeline, glossary and bibliography for readers to learn more.
This was the first in a five book series ‘Kiwis at War’ released to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The series was scheduled to be release one a year to coincide with the 100 years commemorations (2014 – 2018).
Characters will appear across several books to connect the stories. Although each book in the series can be read as a standalone novel.
I have read the next three books in the series – 1915: Wounds of War by Diana Menefy, 1916: Dig for Victory by David Hair, and 1917: Machines of War by Brian Falkner. I’m still waiting to read 1918: Broken Poppies by Des Hunt.
Brocker portrays the reality of war realistically without the novel being too graphic in its depiction of the horrors of war.
Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.