Romance amid war-time

Jill Nicholas





The Leonard Girls By Deborah Challinor, Harper-Collins, $36.99 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Few New Zealand female authors know as much about the Vietnam War as the men who served. Deborah Challinor is the exception. She's extensively researched the 1960s into the 1970s conflict for earlier non-fiction works. With The Leonard Girls she's melded fact with fiction. Much of the story line is based on fact, in particular engagements with the Viet Cong and the conditions the Anzacs fought in. Challinor has created a plot that emphasises the divide the war caused New Zealanders of the era. Rowie, one of the Leonard sisters of the title, is pro war. A nurse, she serves a tour of duty in the Australian field hospital at Vung Tau. Jo Leonard is anti-war. That's until she re-meets career soldier Sam Apanui who's serving in Vietnam and she joins a band that tours there. Regular Challinor readers will remember the Leonards and the Apanuis from the preceding books in her The Restless Years collection. She seamlessly transfers characters from these works to roles in her latest, and last, book in the series. We again meet mother and daughter Polly and Gina, and the gender switched Star and Rhoda from The Jacaranda House. Challinor has captured the moral dilemma the Vietnam War created with an excellent depiction of a slice of this country's military past sweetened with a touch of romance. —