Elisabeth Holdsworth reviews 'All Day Long the Noise of Battle' by Gerard Windsor

All Day Long the Noise of Battle: An Australian Attack in Vietnam

by Gerard Windsor

Pier 9, $29.99 pb, 254 pp, 9781741969184

The title of this new book on the Vietnam War comes from the final verse cycle of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (1869). As Arthur lies dying, he reflects ‘that we / Shall never more ... Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds’. This Arthurian borrowing for the title of a book about an obscure battle fought by Australians in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive is not overweening. That infamous year, the war’s ubiquity on television gave the conflict a frisson of newness that coincided with political upheavals in Europe and with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F. Kennedy. Vietnam was not the first of the new wars; it was the last of the old wars. Gerard Windsor’s Arthurian title is both poignant and entirely apt.

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Elisabeth Holdsworth

Elisabeth Holdsworth

Elisabeth Holdsworth won the inaugural Calibre Essay Prize in 2007 for her essay ‘An Die Nachgeborenen: For Those Who Come After’. She was born in the Netherlands and migrated to Australia with her parents in 1959. Educated in Melbourne, she had a long career in the Department of Defence. Her most recent novel is Those Who Come After (Picador, 2011).

Published in June 2011 no. 332