Ghost of Gallipoli

Written by Margaret Whittock
Review by Helen Hollick

‘Two young people leave Ireland for Turkey, eighty years apart: for one, Private Jack Callaghan, newly enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, a bitter parting from his fiancée; for the other, Jack’s great-niece, Ellie McKnight, the promise of an exciting new life.’

Part thriller, part ghost story, set in 1915 and the 1990s. Jack has died violently during the terror of World War One, but his spirit has survived. When his great-niece, Ellie, travels to Istanbul to marry her diplomat fiancé her great-uncle gradually reveals his presence to her along with the nightmare he has suffered, and his determination for revenge.

As a narrative trying to tell just how traumatic the events of Gallipoli in 1915 were, this novel brings the tragedy vividly to life. I found it thought-provoking on two counts: how many souls from how many wars remain desperate to tell their dreadful tales, and how would I react to meeting a relative from the past?

The soldiers were a little stereotypical and there did not seem to be much love lost between the characters, but that seems reasonable for men shoved together without choice, and with the only common factor being to fight the enemy and try to stay alive while doing so.

This is debut novel, and as with any new indie writer there were a couple of production glitches: I would suggest an eagle-eye for future novels as there were a few repeated words, and sometimes too many adjectives. I found the change of first person to third for various chapters a little confusing at first; perhaps a date in the chapter heading would have highlighted the different perspectives? And being ultra-picky, some format editing to remove the widowed lines hanging on an otherwise blank page…

But none of this detracted from an interesting and intriguing story set in an evocative and very well-described Istanbul.