Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Traitor by Stephen Daisley

Traitor by Stephen Daisley, Text Publishing $39 out now

Ex New Zealand infantryman, now Western Australian husband and father, Stephen Daisley takes us back to Gallipoli in 1915 in his novel Traitor.

 Mahmoud, a British trained Turkish doctor, is in the trenches with Kiwi soldier, David, when a shell bursts overhead injuring them both.  During their convalescence Mahmoud shares his Sufi beliefs and traditions with David, while David is allowed to guard his new close friend.  When it becomes clear that Mahmoud will be treated as an enemy rather than as an ally David engineers an escape attempt.  However in a Sufi-like way, this cataclysmic moment is a long time coming as we share the many private moments of these two men from opposite cultures. 

David’s choice to betray his country for his friend leads to the severest punishment, which is avoided in a very Anzac way.  He is allowed to serve the rest of the war as a stretcher bearer, where a new compassionate David is much valued by those he assists.  However when we meet David as old man sheep farming back in New Zealand, his world is still in tatters from his war experience. The man who returned to heartland New Zealand is not the one who left and his new compassion and quietly whispered about history separate him from the tough society of post war rural New Zealand.

This is definitely a story of mate-ship, but also one of humanity.  The relationships ring true and the story will delight.

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