Call me unpatriotic if you must, but the sad fact is that much of Australian literature is very poor. I know that that’s a sweeping and partially unfair generalisation because there are indeed a handful of wonderful Australian writers but, for me personally, the majority of Australian books has left quite a lot to be desired. Throughout both primary and high schools, when required to read and review the works of an Australian author, I was always filled with dread. While it could simply be my own personal disposition towards certain types of literature and have nothing to do with the calibre of Australian writing, I distinctly remember regarding all Australian books and poetry as very dull and very close-minded. War, the outback, the bush, farm life and English settlement were the predominating themes of most of what I encountered throughout school and after my tenth poem about the old gum trees, I had developed a strong aversion to Australian writing. In its stead, I sought out American and English books for their promise of adventure, diversity, colour and excitement.
However, when I was around fourteen years old and perusing the shelves of my school library, a stumbled across a book with a very intriguing title: Tomorrow When the War Began. Written by an author I knew nothing about, John Marsden, I picked up the book and read it’s blurb.
Ellie and her friends leave home one quiet morning, wave goodbye to their parents, and head up into the hills to camp out for a while; seven teenagers filing in time during school holidays.
The world is about to change forever.
Their lives will never be the same again.
Would you fight? Would you give up everything? Would you sacrifice even life itself?
Tomorrow, When the War Began asks the biggest questions you will ever have to answer.
I was immediately hooked as only an adventure-loving nerd could be. Though not all too fond of war novels, I loved stories about young friends, discovery and adventure and this book promised all three so I proceeded to the librarian’s desk. Two days later, I finished the last chapter and was utterly astounded. The book was a triumphant and imaginative tale of survival, friendship, youth, innocence and humanity and what made it even more remarkable was its Australian setting and authorship. I had found an Australian book that I loved! With a powerful command of the English language and a deep insight into the ideas of youth, innocence and friendship, John Marsden had written a novel that exemplified Australian literature at its finest and as a result, had managed to change my perspective on Australian writing.
I followed up Tomorrow, When the War Began with the second of the series, The Dead of the Night, and was not disappointed. The breath-taking story of Ellie and her friends continued with as much insight, suspense and adventure as was displayed in the first book and subsequently led me to read the entire seven book series.
There is now a major Australian film based on the first novel, which you may or may not have heard of but which has definitely done its written counterpart justice. The film features a cast of emerging Australian actors and is surprisingly wonderful given the Australian film industry’s history of flops. Another success for the Australian arts scene and it’s all attributable to John Marsden.
The Age wrote that the Tomorrow books are “The best series for Australian teens of all time.” And I whole-heartedly agree.