Valour and Violets – South Australia in the Great War by Robert Kearney and Sharon Cleary – Book Review

This is a large, lavish and very well illustrated account of the part that South Australians played in the First World War.

Victoria produced a similarly-themed volume in 2014. Are these state-based accounts sufficiently different from the experiences of all Australians to merit publication? The answer is emphatically yes. A book based on a state can look at its people and their experiences with a particular magnification that an Australia-wide book cannot. It can do so at a quality unlikely to be reached by the municipal or suburban-based history. And it can take into account those geographic and economic factors peculiar to the state. Australian history is varied and a book like this celebrates its diversity.

The book starts with a background account of South Australia’s participation in the Boer War, redressing the lack of a volume devoted to this topic. It follows a logical and chronological approach, with many interludes looking at the stories of individuals at the front and at home. Each colourful page is well-designed and there are photos or diagrams on every one of them. The maps are very clear indeed.

While there are several errors in the book, (for example, confusing a lieutenant colonel with a lieutenant general and a map showing ‘Monuments Wood’), they are of little consequence. The index is good and the bibliography quite satisfactory. There are some useful appendixes.

This book, despite its coffee table proportions, will be a most useful reference, particularly for South Australians.


Reviewed for RUSIV by Mike O’Brien, July 2018

Wakefield Press, Adelaide 2018
Paperback 400pp RRP: $75.00

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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