Bad Characters – Peter Stanley (10/10)

With ANZAC Day recently passed this book has helped me understand Australian citizen soldiers in general, and my father in particular. It highlights the complete averageness of the boys (few were grown men) who volunteered to fight in the First World War. It chronicles their nature as Australians and as soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force, contrasting with the British Military’s ideas of what a soldier ought to be.

At a personal level it put my father’s Second World War history into a clearer light. Just like the boys a generation earlier he was not immune to unintended absences, general foolishness and fighting the system copying and enforcing the character of those original diggers.

The book in no way demeans the spirit of the ANZAC, nor does it in any way demean the tradition that means so much to me and I imagine others in Australia. With humour, honesty and reverence it brings to light the normalcy of these Australians with all their character flaws, during their bumps, bruises and scrapes with the law.

A great reading book full of understanding for these average boys and the effect of the horror of war it lives up to the front cover blurb: Many were ANZAC heroes. Some were criminals, some were both.

This is not a book I’d suggest reading from start to finish. I read it in sections and hopped around throughout the book taking inspiration from wherever fate led me to open the page. Highly recommended. You can read more about the author and his other works on his website.

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