Crucible: a Novel of an Australian in World War I, BWM Books, Canberra, 2012; first published Angus & Robertson 1935; available electronically
Insightful, humorous and confronting, “Crucible” is a delicate portrait of the thoughts and emotions of a young man experiencing a brutal and bewildering war. This prize-winning Australian novel of the First World War recounts the coming of age of a sensitive young Australian soldier on the Western Front.
McKinney, whose portrait appears on the book’s cover, fought in France from 1915 to 1918 with the First Anzac Cyclist Battalion, and much of the novel is loosely based on his own wartime experiences. It takes the reader to the trenches and their horrors, as well as to life behind the lines in occupied France. The camaraderie, intense friendships and occasional tensions among the Diggers who lived and died together in France is vividly portrayed, and young John Fairbairn finds himself faced with the painful dilemmas of love and betrayal that war so often brings in its train.
“Crucible” broke new ground in its use of a narrative technique that slips between traditional third person narration and the immediacy of a sometimes fragmented and intense inner voice. It won the RSL Prize for an Australian War Novel in 1935, the year it was published. (blurb)
The book is reviewed for Honest History by Christina Spittel.