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The Widow and her Hero [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Keneally
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £9.99
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Book Description

In 1943, when Grace and Leo Waterhouse married in Australia, they were part of a young generation ready to sacrifice themselves to win the war, while being confident they would survive. Sixty years on, as Grace recounts what happened to her doomed hero, she can say what she suspected then: that for many men, bravery is its own end. The tale she tells is one of great love, lost innocence, a charismatic but unstable Irish commander, dashing undercover missions against the Japanese in Singapore, and - in her eyes - reckless, foolhardy exploits. As fresh details continue to emerge, Grace is forced to keep revising her picture of what happened to Leo and his fellow commandoes - until she learns about the final piece in the jigsaw, and an ultimate betrayal.

As absorbing as it is thought-provoking, this timely novel poses unsettling questions about what drives men to battle and heroic deeds, and movingly conveys the life-long effect on those who survive them.

Product Description


'Australia is lucky to have Keneally. Few writers have a public voice that one wants to follow into the bedroom. He combines Tom Wolfe's expansiveness with the uncorkable energy of Anthony Burgess.' (Nicholas Shakespeare, Daily Telegraph on THE COMMONWEALTH OF THIEVES)

A polemical tour de force . . . Keneally's writing is as compelling, clear and commanding as at any time in his hugely impressive career. (Scotsman on THE TYRANT'S NOVEL)

The gripping work of an author at the height of his powers (The Times on THE OFFICE OF INNOCENCE)

Superbly crafted . . . a thought-provoking and engrossing novel (Sunday Express on THE OFFICE OF INNOCENCE)

Magnificent . . . A literary tour de force (Independent on Sunday on BETTANY'S BOOK)

A riveting and compendious account of the settlement of Australia by white convicts. It is a tremendous work, full of scholarship, adventure, drama and compassion (Rachel Cusk, Daily Telegraph on BETTANY'S BOOK)

Keneally's latest novel, like several of the two dozen before it, is set during the second world war and built around real events made absorbing by his psychologically convincing characters. (Guardian Review)


"Both touching and gripping until the very last page. Warmly recommended." (The Daily Mail)

"A subtle examination of heroism . . . the elegance and economy of this novel are dazzling . . . This clever, compelling novel asks some uncomfortable questions." (The Guardian)

"A poignant and touching novel . . . wonderfully written." (The Daily Express)

"The Widow and Her Hero is both an absorbing wartime thriller and a thoroughly convincing study of grief." (The Sunday Times)

"This latest novel from Tom Keneally-best known for the book upon which Schindler's List was based-returns to his favorite theme: heroism in war. The title refers to Grace and Leo, an Australian couple who marry in the midst of WWII. Leo is a commando charged with making daring raids on Japanese ships, a mission from which he ultimately does not return. Actress Beverly Dunn is note perfect as Grace, who relates the story decades later in a series of remembrances during which Leo's fate is slowly revealed for the listener. Snippets of Leo's own words are woven through in the voice of David Tredinnick, and the technique effectively ties together the narratives of these wartime lovers." (AudioFile Magazine)

"I had forgotten that The Widow and her Hero was longlisted for the Miles Franklin in 2008 when I saw the audio book at the library. I just liked the cover image, and the title was appealing. It turned out to be riveting, which is just what I needed for the daily commute...I became lost instead in the heart-wrenching story of Grace and Leo Waterhouse, and her never-ending journey to come to terms with her widowhood...Bolinda Audio seems to have the knack of casting just the right narrator for their audio books: Beverley Dunn is superb as Grace, and David Tredinnick is an utterly convincing Leo." (ANZ LitLovers LitBlog)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 751 KB
  • Print Length: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New Ed edition (27 Sept. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00913OG20
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #48,327 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
By hillbank68 TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I admire Keneally's Boker prize-winning book. 'Schindler's Ark' (on which the film 'Schindler's List' was based). This, however, is better, I think. Grace, the 'Widow', tells her husband's and her own story. Immediately you learn of his death, messily, by execution at the hands of the Japanese. Then the background of their relationship, his gruelling training in the IRD (Independent Reconnaissance Department), his friendships with Roland Mortmain and Charley Doucette ('The Boss') and the deadly missions on which they were sent, largely devising them themselves, are explored in the first half of the book. After their capture and deaths, Grace has to come to terms with living on, and she makes the necessary human compromises to do so, but the past returns significantly to disturb and distress her, feeding her new information which forces her to revise and adjust the version of events with which she has made that pact that ensures her unquiet peace. This is a painful, sometime agonising process.
It also provides a novel which constantly surprises the reader. The book is a very good read, part adventure story, part exploration of a number of interesting relationships, principally that of Grace and Leo, part investigation of the psychological complexity of Grace's situation after her beloved Leo's death. It is beautifully and quite economically written and often, towards the end, very moving. It examines events that were quite new to me, and though the book is a work of fiction, Keneally acknowledges in his preface that actual operations against Singapore from Australia do provide a historical parallel to his story. I have only one criticism, and it is a minor one.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interrogates the ideals of masculinity and heroism 21 April 2011
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Set in Australia and around the Pacific during the second world war, this is a book which confronts the ideals of heroism and masculinity in wartime through a widow's grief at the death of her young husband. We witness the horrible wartime executions in the opening chapter so this isn't a page-turner in the traditional sense where we're racing to find out what happens - instead it's a meditation on the aftermath of self-sacrifice, and the uncovering of the lies and operational mishaps which lead to the deaths.

This is an intelligent and moving book: on one hand the text itself heroises the behaviour of the men involved in war-time operations in the Pacific, and yet, on the other, it offers the idea that they wasted their lives, and were liberated from the burden of masculine conventions through their deaths.

So overall this is a thoughtful and meditative read which asks lots of questions to which there are no easy answers. Grace, the narrator, has her own view but, interestingly, I'm not sure that it's one which the text itself supports. For such a short book, this is resonant and haunting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keneally at his best 23 Aug. 2010
By SusieH
We know from the start that Grace is the widow, and Leo her hero. Through flashbacks we follow Grace and Leo's lives from courting, early marriage, and on to their wartime experiences. Leo is involved in undercover sabotage missions. He does not come back from one, and Grace learns that he is missing presumed dead, but has to keep this quiet due to the sensitivity of the mission. On later learning that he is indeed dead, she accepts widowhood with dignity.

In time, the story behind the failed mission, and Leo's death, become known. Life is turned upside down, and all involved are badly affected.

Like all Keneally's novels, this is unputdownable - absolutely riveting!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good - but a bit too tidy 29 May 2008
I should make my biases clear right at the start: my paternal family had a very bad time under the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. Because of what they suffered, I have given a lot of thought to the consequences of atrocities, and to the reliability of evidence.

We know from the start that Leo gets killed; the story is really about Grace, his widow, and how she finds out what happened to him and how she copes with that knowledge. I think the novel catches the tempo of the times very well: anyone who has read about the Fall of Malaya and Singapore in 1941/42 will be familiar with sequences of military cock-ups. Grace's reluctance to hear any more about what happened to her husband and to have to re-jig, yet again, the narrative she has set up in her head, is also very true to life. As the other reviewer commented, it's beautifully written. The characterisation is good, the scene setting quick and clear. It engages both the mind and the emotions.

So why four stars and not five? Well, in real life eyewitness accounts have a nasty habit of disagreeing, and you are left wondering who to believe: it's not just a case of accepting adjustments to the story, but working out exactly what those adjustments ought to be. Here, one eyewitness backs up another, or adds to the overall fund of information. More worryingly, the novel almost implies that once Grace dies, this atrocity will just about be over - though her grandaughter from her second marriage will remember it. In real life, it's not like that: the horror spreads out like ripples in a pool, across families and down the generations. Whenever any army, anywhere, commits atrocities, I can see the consequences knocking on for years. That's a pretty big lesson but, sadly, this novel fails to draw it out.
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