Living with the Aftermath: Trauma, nostalgia and grief in post-war Australia
CUP, $45 hb, 240 pp
A brief moment of reflection on the quantum of grief in Australia associated with wars of the twentieth century is, to say the least, unsettling. Nearly 100,000 killed in combat, many seriously wounded, many dealing with the physical and mental consequences long after the cessation of hostilities. Lives snatched from the everyday and made into noble sacrifices. The darker dimensions of the Anzac legacy have seeped into the national imagining in recent years, and we are now more open to the poignant melancholy of remembrance, undercutting the bellicose flag-waving of former years. But our sense of the costs of sacrifice has largely been focused on those who served. Joy Damousi in this and her previous book, The Labour of Loss (1999), opens our eyes to those others who have borne the pain of grief most acutely: the wives and families of those killed and those forever transformed by the experience of battle. These illuminating books are a long overdue acknowledgment of the burden of mourning that many Australian families have had to bear.