This review was published in the Herald Sun on Anzac Day:
This is built on the foundations of Funder’s great-grandfather, Stan Watson, and his extraordinary story at Gallipoli — how he helped build the pier that became vital to the Anzac effort and then, when the orders for evacuation came, his role in ensuring one of the greatest military withdrawals in history was achieved without loss of life. But this is hybrid; a novel in temperament but a personal history in its style. On occasions, the fusing of the larger historical facts of the failed Dardanelles Campaign hangs heavy on the story, slowing down its progress and obscuring some of the nuance. The central story of Watson’s time at war is told with such detail and empathy that the grand facts of the Gallipoli mission — and the bigger picture — are almost unnecessary. This is the classic instance of how the small story illuminates life’s darkest corners — our fears, the sense of loss, the helplessness, the random acts of fate, the stray bullet. Funder writes shining prose: lyrical and often moving. And his dialogue is wonderful — wry, engaging and blessed with the sound of authenticity. One of the other successes of the book is the tension built around the evacuation and Watson’s key role in it. We know the outcome but Funder marshals the story beautifully to create a sense of drama and anxiety. A more experienced novelist may well have pulled off the history-novel mix more seamlessly but it’s unlikely they would have written a book that surpasses the heart and intelligence of Funder’s effort.