The Other Side of Dawn - John Marsden

The final book in the Tomorrow When the War Began series starts with a bang as the New Zealanders fly in a bomb expert to load up the kids and prepare them for D-Day. The kinds take out an enemy squadron that is moving way too close to Hell, then abandon their home in favour of the one final big push. Then Ellie is separated from her friends and lives out the last days of the war as a prisoner.

 

I really missed Homer, Fi, Kevin, Lee and Gavin in this final instalment. Pretty early on, Ellie is separated from the others when she uses a train to attempt to escape the enemy. After a long, exhausting battle and chase that really makes you feel all of her pain, Ellie is shot in the leg and caught, beaten, and then taken to a prisoner of war camp where her real identity – and the accolades that come from being one of the teen team who blew up Cobblers Bay and the airport, among others – is almost exposed to the enemy. Through the helpfulness of her own people, and her own resourcefulness, Ellie, believing her friends are dead, makes her way to her mother, at which time to war finally over as a peace treaty is agreed to.

 

Even though Ellie was surrounded by her own people in the war camp, I still felt alone with her. I really wanted her friends around. Instead, it’s almost as if Marsden, realising this was the last book (it would be some years before he returned to this world with the Ellie Chronicles) decided that this was the last chance to torture Ellie, and figured out what would be the worst thing in the world to happen. Step 1: Remove her friends. Step 2: She gets shot. Step 3: She’s captured and taken to a prison camp. Step 4: Her real identity is discovered. And so on. It just slowly got worse and worse.

 

But then, while Ellie was running around the countryside, the war was called to a halt. Peace was extended, although both sides had to confirm it at first, and then negotiations splitting up land and returning Australians to their homes began. Ellie’s farm was on the border of the new nation given to the invaders. While I have a hard time suspending my disbelief over this, I also had a hard time believing that New Zealand would be Australia’s saviours – until Japan got involved, at least. The tidying up of loose endings only goes to show how war really affects people, and how different Ellie had become to the girl who started the story.

 

I’m really looking forward to reading the continuing story of post-war Australia in The Ellie Chronicles, which I’ve not read before.