The Secret Son is Jenny Ackland’s debut novel. While it shows promise, there is a need to suspend your disbelief on rather too many fronts. Son and grandson of Ned Kelly? A Turkish boy managing to save an Australian sniper? One man left behind on Anzac Cove? However the imagination shown by Ackland in tying these disparate ideas together is utterly commendable, so she is worth watching in the future.
There’s a lot to absorb with the many threads of The Fatal Tide, but it is well worth the concentration. After the death of his father, Thomas Clare has to come to terms with the fact that maybe both his mother and his father had taken their own lives. This doesn’t sit well with him, so when he, and his best mate, Snow (part aborigine, hence the nickname) join the AIF and find themselves on Gallipoli. They really do expect to learn more about the tragedy back home. They do succeed despite the horrors of warfare, and the ferocious Turkish attacks on their trenches. That the knowledge could take them back to the Boer War and to the tale of Breaker Morant did not seem possible, or even plausible. How could a piece of paper, in Tom’s father’s possession, have led to his death? It is a complex narrative, but a captivating one.
That two novels involving the Gallipoli Peninsula should be published in the year of the 100th anniversary of the landing is perhaps due to the fact that both writers are Australian. Jenny Ackland has further knowledge because her husband is Turkish. That this reviewer preferred one above the other is perfectly obvious, but read them both to see if you agree. You won’t be disappointed.
THE SECRET SON by JENNY ACKLAND
PUBLISHED by ALLEN & UNWIN
THE FATAL TIDE by STEVE SAILAH
PUBLISHED by BANTAM
Both for a recommended $29.99