War Flower – Mary-Anne O’Connor

War Flower was a pleasant surprise for me. Not my typical read at all but it certainly hit the spot for a bit of holiday reading. Set in the backdrop of 1960’s Sydney we meet Poppy and her twin sister Rosemary, finishing up high school and embarking on a new journey of university and flourishing with new-found freedom from their strict parents, starting with a trip to Queensland. Boys, politics, drugs and parties the girl find themselves in a different world and loving life. Until the Vietnam war affects both their lives with Rosemary’ boyfriend Angus and Poppy’s love from a far Ben are both sent to serve in the war.

This novel starts as a historical romance with the reader watching the twins grow up from quiet wall flowers to finding love and for some, losing it. I found myself way too wrapped up in the twin’s romances (particularly Poppy’s) from the very beginning and settled myself in for something corny and predictable (in the best possible way).  Instead the novel flourished into something much more. War Flower ended up touching on so many relevant issues of the time, ranging from the Vietnam War and PTSD post-service, the raging sixties that was preoccupied with drugs and politics and the strict expectations of the day often coming from parents. This novel ended up being much more than a fluffy beach romance and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of reading it.

A very surprising and consuming read I finished it in a day. The characters were compelling, some of them walking very different paths to what you expected. War Flower gives the reader a great insight into Australia in the sixties and the effect the Vietnam War had across the country. I would highly recommend this one and wouldn’t hesitate to try the author’s previous novels or any future work. Don’t take this one at face value and give it a shot, you won’t regret it.

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