The Long Green Shore – John Hepworth

This is another of the books my dad brought back from Australia, published by Text. The Long Green Shore tells the tale of Australian forces in New Guinea during World War Two. It is based on Hepworth’s own experience fighting against the Japanese, in the jungles and on the beaches of New Guinea, and due to that is a very moving, and often graphic, portrayal of war. Although it was written in 1947 the novel was not published until 1995, not long after Hepworth’s death. Despite being named by many as a classic war novel, it is not one that I know; but now I would class it with For Whom The Bell Tolls, Homage to Catalonia and The Good Soldier Švejk as amongst the best I have read. There is an honesty about war throughout that makes this novel extremely interesting, I wondered whether Hepworth saw the war, or the campaign described, as slightly pointless.1d153b101e3811e48b86312c8da705a6_author

Hepworth’s novel is a concerned with the Australian campaign in New Guinea, during which numerous men were killed on both sides, despite not being a campaign that would affect the outcome of the war. The novel portrays a number of ordinary men, not heroes, who are thrust into a situation that they must survive. We see through Hepworth’s writing the ability of humanity to adapt however horrible conditions are; the characters build friendships, play games, and make the most of the social opportunities despite the situation they are in.  With excellent use of language Hepworth manages to show the reality of war, and the attitudes of those actually fighting it. Most of these soldiers are against the war, but are fighting because they feel they have to. There is a sense of futility, fighting for hills and beaches that seem to have no worth. The novel is respectful of soldiers and the efforts made by them, but is critical of the hierarchy and lack of care for the men who are actually fighting.

I found this novel extremely interesting, due to having never heard of it, but also as I had to do a bit of research about its context to truly understand it. Due to the colloquialisms I did have to think a bit about the language, there were a number of phrases that were definitely Australian, and I had to work out their meaning to understand the passage. To get the most out of this novel it is worth knowing context, so as to understand what is an elegantly written piece of Australian literature.

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