`Pozieres - The Anzac Story' is the definitive history the battle of Pozieres has been waiting for, a great panoply of death and horror, of uselessness and caprice and the machines of war, finally made almost human through Bennett's barely moving tableau vivant of fleeting spotlit faces frozen incandescent in flare light before being blown limb from limb, only to be vomited up again and again by the relentless metal barrage that ploughed the Somme's grisly manure.
In a story that tunnels through the scant weeks that took the ANZACs from defeated glory in the dust and heat of Gallipoli to mutiny and madness at Moquet Farm, the apocalypse of the Western Front, Bennett sets out to meld that mire of man and machine into a requiem, a huge grinding funeral march of dead and returned men, of kings and career commanders and corporals, of the bereaved and the Bean of history, and be damned if he doesn't succeed.
Ninety years on, his approach is more even-handed, even more careful, more forgiving than many of the scribes of this appalling affront to civilisation. Can we explain an apocalypse? Bennett wisely doesn't try. He lays before us, in terrible detail, the events, the men, the families, the astonishing, unstoppable institution called World War One, with all the terror those three short words can contain; he even ponders the motivations of military and political leaders, and those of the tinkers and tailors drawn for myriad reasons into the death machine. The war, he leaves that to the judgment of his readers; it's Pozieres that absorbs his attention, and why, as the battlefield in which more Australians fell than any before or since, it has not been commemorated with the same heart as Gallipoli.
The answer given is clear enough: while Gallipoli whetted the nation's appetite for glory through war, Pozieres burned that banquet to ashes in our mouths.