Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss (Simon & Schuster Australia)
Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms is storytelling with a sense of great purpose and intimacy with place. Paying close attention to historical detail, Anita Heiss illuminates mid-twentieth century Aboriginal life on the Erambie mission in New South Wales, with all its depredations mirrored in a prisoner of war internment camp ‘down the road’. Heiss is to be congratulated for fictionalising the lived experience of both the mission inhabitants and the Japanese prisoners.
The characters in Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms are lovable as well as utterly believable. The parallels between two subjugated peoples — Koories and Japanese POWs — come to life, even in as unlikely a setting as an airless bomb shelter where love might blossom. This novel meditates on freedom and compassion set against a dramatic moment in Australia’s history. It captures an historic moment which reverberates in the present.