The Year It All Ended

Written by Kirsty Murray
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

November 1918, Melbourne, Australia. Tiney Flynn and her sisters are celebrating both Tiney’s 17th birthday and the end of the Great War. Soon, surely, their brother Louis will return from the war and things will be back to normal. None of them have any idea how painful and challenging Peace will prove to be.

What I enjoyed about this book was its examination of World War I from an unusual angle, that of those left at home to cope with the tragedy of young lives snuffed out and a new world which is nothing like the ‘land fit for heroes’ promised by the politicians.

Tiney finds herself in a barren world where everything is in short supply. Where are the sisters’ future husbands to come from now that an entire generation of young men is buried in the blood-soaked fields of Northern France? Her parents, too, are feeling the financial pinch, and jobs for girls are few and far between – and not paid well either.

Kirsty Murray doesn’t hesitate to show us what life was really like in those early post-war years. I hadn’t fully taken on board, for example, that there were hundreds of thousands of dead soldiers’ bodies lying in Flanders mud – and they all had to be unearthed, identified if possible and given a proper burial. It was a horrifying job and dangerous, too, as unexploded bombs were a constant threat.

I found myself completely absorbed in Tiney’s life as she struggles towards some kind of realistic future in which she can move forward and, we hope, find happiness. The Year it All Ended is a brave and moving book and Kirsty Murray doesn’t pull her emotional punches. I’m sure that thoughtful girls of 13+ will be as much involved with Tiney as I was. Recommended.