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Fragments of A Journey, A Fistful of Life

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One thing that makes this book unique is the arrangement of the words. I sometimes had the feeling I have when reading poetry. Jose De Koster is an easy writer. I can’t describe the arrangement in the book as entire prose, or partly poetic, what I know is that the author told his story in a distinct way, making his work exceptional on all levels. I first fell in love with the pictures in the book. The self-portraits, oil on hardboard images and oil on canvas were all beautiful pieces of art. My favorite was the painting of ‘The Lonely Artist’. A picture is truly worth a thousand words. It did not stop there – Jose De Kroser also added pictures of his family in between his writing. I know I spent a good part of my time just looking at the pictures.

The author first introduces us to his life through his mother’s words. The mother encouraged him to keep writing as she had hoped he would become a journalist. Jose De Koster fell in love with words at a very tender age. Through this book, one gets to know that he felt art and literature on a spiritual level. I feel a little connected to the author when he mentioned four of his favorite authors. Pablo Neruda, Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, and Anna Akhmatova are the four literary icons the author mentioned. I love that he mentioned the first two as I too adore their works. The author’s narration confirms what a gifted writer he was. I enjoyed reading through as he talked about living in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.

Jose De Koster narrated his story wonderfully. The authored adored his mother and treated her as the most special being. He equally loved his father and brother Ed, but the love he had for his mother was something else. I enjoyed reading on the bit where he discussed faith. It did not come to me as a surprise when the author wrote how he grew up as a Roman Catholic; his mother’s faith, not following his father who was Lutheran. Religion was an important aspect in their lives back then. I loved the memories he shared in regard to the Catholic faith he followed when young.

Fragments of A Journey… A Fistful of Life is a lovely memoir. The author’s recollection of his childhood complete with pictures attached is beautiful. The best thing about Jose’s life was the love they had in the family. His life was simple yet he was able to live to the fullest. His writing is matchless and admirable. The book is both short and interesting that one can complete in one sitting.

ISBN 13: 978-0-646-98150-5

Available at

www.FragmentsByJoseDeKoster.com

 

The Family That Went to War

The Family That Went To War3 StarsThe Family that Went to War is both a family memoir and a history of the people of the state of New South Wales, Australia. The author, Gordon Smith, gives a well-documented account of six members of a family from Cootamundra, NSW, who enlisted into the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) at the onset of World War I. His research in historical archives, newspapers, and memorial societies is well done. The accounts of war and details of each man’s deployment presumes that he also had their war diaries and letters from home to draw on for detail.

The Commonwealth of Australia was still a young country, having formed a federation just over a decade previous. Australians still regarded Britain as their mother country, and when war broke out, Australia’s Prime Minister declared support for Great Britain and formally entered the Great War. Six members of the author’s family enlisted to fight the German army. He tells each man’s story with informative passages about the region they are in, the larger picture of the war that raged around them, and then brings it back down to the trenches where the soldiers fought. Smith’s details regarding ships, armaments, shortages and hardships, and other details of the soldiers’ experiences in Egypt and France will be of great interest to readers fascinated by World War I or the contribution of Australia to the Great War.

One such detail is in the account of Austin Schofield’s experience at Gallipoli. A water shortage, bad weather, and devastating losses motivated the British combined forces to evacuate. In order to safely evacuate, they used subterfuge to trick the Turkish forces into thinking they were still there.

Periscopes were to be propped up, and every effort was to be made to create the impression that the trenches were still fully occupied. … When it was time to finally abandon the trenches, Austin was to help set up some remote firing devices to fire some rifles to keep the illusion that the trenches were occupied. Some rifles had string tired to the trigger and a candle burning until it reached the string. The rifle would then fire.

Though the author writes with detachment, the stories of these soldiers in the midst of historic battles give a glimpse into the life, and death, of Australian soldiers. I was particularly interested in the account of William Power, fighting on the Western Front at Fromelles France. The losses to the Australian forces were described as, “the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history”. Though the account is given in a very matter-of-fact manner, it’s hard not to sympathize with the Australian soldiers.

The biggest drawback of this book was a simple case of bad editing. In one case, the name of an Egyptian city is spelled three different ways on the same page. Punctuation is inconsistent and made some passages difficult to understand and hard to follow.

Overall, I think the author has done a fine job documenting both his family history and military history. Despite the dry, academic tone of the account, there are moments of humor and humanity that shine through.

Pages: 92 | ISBN: 9781310378010

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