My Brother’s War

My Brother’s War by David Hill reviewed by Melanie Wittwer, Green Bay Creative Writers

I would like to highjack this thread for a moment, because I feel the need to express my sincere thanks to David Hill for writing this book.

Being of German origin I am always reluctant to pick up a book about war, written in any country. In my 12 years in New Zealand I’ve always been puzzled by its fascination with war and at times light handed manner with which it is referenced.

Just last weekend at the Rugby I was asked, whether I would prefer a kiwi or a swastika for my face paint. Not cool. The worst thing was that everybody around me burst out laughing, as if it were all a big joke.

Well, I did open this book and what a wonderful surprise it was. Towards the beginning of World War One, just after Gallipoli, brothers William and Edmund could not be more different. William can’t wait to volunteer to fight for King and country together with all his mates. Edmund is a conscientious objector who refuses to join the war. The story follows their very different journeys onto the battlefield, but also their emotional journey, which leads them to question their beliefs and expectations. Edmund, treated roughly for his refusal to fight, stands his ground, but also finds his place in a society affected by war. William becomes more and more disillusioned with the war he initially thought would be a splendid adventure. In the end they have a much better understanding of each other’s stance.

I liked about this book that it approaches the topic from two very different perspectives and thereby invites the reader to consider different perspectives as well. When is it worth going to war? Or is it ever? Who is the enemy? Aren’t enemies human beings as well – brothers, sons, fathers – sent to war to fight and die over a patch of dirt?

The book does not explore the reasons for war, but it demonstrates the futility of that particular war.

All kids who think going to war would be an awfully great adventure should read My Brother’s War first.

I would recommend this book from ages 12 up, as I have found in conversation with younger students that they did not quite fathom the depth of its message. Other awards have listed this book in the young adult category.

Thank you, David Hill, for writing this book.

David Hill (author)
David Hill spent most of his childhood and teenage years in Napier. He studied at Victoria University and became a high school teacher, teaching both in New Zealand and the UK. He became a full-time writer in 1982 and is one of this country’s most highly regarded authors for children and young people. David’s books have been published internationally and his short stories and plays for young people have been broadcast here and overseas.
David has won awards for his writing in this country and overseas. He was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004.


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