Sunday, October 23, 2011

When We Were Two by Robert Newton

Dan had to go,
He felt he had no choice, but leaving home was never
going to be easy . . .

Dan and his brother Eddie take off for the coast, in search of their lost mother, in search of a better life . . . but it's a long road they face and Dan must use all his wits to get them there in one piece.

When they are taken under the wings of a group of would-be soldiers marching over the mountains to join up for the Great War, Dan and Eddie's journey becomes something quite unexpected.  The experiences they share will shape their future beyond recognition.

This extraordinary rite of passage is a powerful, heart-rending story – Robert Newton at his very best.

When We Were Two is a tender and engrossing Aussie YA novel. At just under 200 pages, the pages seem to slip by, yet the journey that takes place in so few words manages to get completely under your skin. It is story of two brothers, running away, heading towards the unknown. 

I loved how I wasn't sure where the story would take me. How I was placed alongside Dan and Eddie, as if I was journeying along with them. I loved the people they met (so varied. I surprisingly found myself so swiftly attached to minor characters who popped up in the story. Such as Ah Ling, who was delightful. They time with him was hilarious, poignant and heart-breaking ~ as was true of many of the encounters). 

Newton has description and setting down to an art form. At no time did I feel bogged down with the setting (they journey from Central West New South Wales east to coastal Port Macquarie ~ which was lovely for me as I have done that same trip ~ albeit not on foot ;) ~ many times.) neither did the historical time period alienate me (opposite, it was charming and resounded strongly). Newton has a gift with creating 

I would not have assumed this novel would be my thing (topically) but this incredible story of hope, resilience and brotherhood was mesmerising. I stayed up too late two nights in a row devouring this. It was heartbreaking in parts, and then ever-so-unexpectedly-endearingly funny moments later. The dialogue was so Australian and perfect in tone, mateship and love conveyed in between the lines superbly. 

I have to say, I have not come across such a lovable, endearing character such as Eddie in such a long time. He made me smile and ache and his optimism and courage stirred something inside of me. I loved him, and the relationship between him and his brother felt all too real. I think sibling relationships in fiction are some of the most powerful relationships we can explore in terms of unconditional love despite all our flaws. 

In conclusion: this broke my heart (a real tear-jerker). It was perfectly tender and gorgeously funny. It also, weirdly, gave me a real sense of pride for the characters, the era and the general Aussieness of it. This book is a real triumph, and it's story is ageless, certain to charm and affect Aussie readers (young and old) for years to come. Oh, I loved this story so. 

When We Were Two was released at the beginning of this month and is available now

When We Were Two @ The Book Gryffin
When We Were Two @ Penguin Australia
Read the first chapter

Thanks to Penguin Australia for the review copy :)


  1. Oh wow, Nomes. This review is exceptional. I will definitely be purchasing myself a copy of this book in the very near future!

  2. Wow that IS a great review, Nomes. Everytime I hear something about this book it's really encouraging. I'm going to push myself to read this during the summer holidays after exams. Wow - this actually mentions Port Macquarie. Hehe, my mother's side live over there. Will be interesting to read, and I'll be looking forward to reading this Eddie guy in the future. ;)

  3. *meeting this Eddie guy

    Sorry for that! :P

  4. You make this sounds so amazing Nomes, I can't wait to read it. Sibling relationships are some of my favourite relationships to read about too.

  5. It does sound like a book that would make someone proud, and it sounds like it's sweet and heartbreakingly awesome.

    Thanks for the review, I'm going to try to get my paws on it.

  6. Another tearjerker recommendation! *sigh* But great review as always, Nomes.

  7. I'm sure a fan of the 'tearjerker' lately. Thanks for highlighting this one so enthusiastically, I hadn't heard of it :)


Thanks for the commenty love :)