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When We Were Two

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  475 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Dan had to go,
He felt he had no choice,
but leaving home was never
going to be easy . . .

Dan and his brother Eddie take off for the coast, in search of their lost mother, in search of a better life . . . but it's a long road they face and Dan must use all his wits to get them there in one piece.

When they are taken under the wings of a group of would-be soldiers marching ove
Paperback, 193 pages
Published October 3rd 2011 by Penguin Australia (first published September 28th 2011)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  475 ratings  ·  56 reviews

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When We Were Two is a tender and engrossing Aussie YA novel. At just under 200 pages, the pages seem to slip by, yet the journey that takes place in so few words manages to get completely under your skin. It is story of two brothers, running away, heading towards the unknown.

I loved how I wasn't sure where the story would take me. How I was placed alongside Dan and Eddie, as if I was journeying along with them. I loved the people they met (so varied. I surprisingly found myself so swiftly attac
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book by Australian Robert Newton. It is a very young adult book, easy to read but packing a punch. Boys from the country run away from their abusive father, heading to the coast. Set around the start of WW1, it's about relationships and, of course, growing up. Tissues are required! ...more
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Wow. I couldn't put it down. Very moving. Best book I've read in a long time. An intimate portrayal of mateship, a simple story, beautifully written, and perfectly pitched for both adult and young readers.
Louisa Robertson
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lou-reads-2018
What a great little YA novel! This story of hope, resilience and brotherhood was an absolute page turner. I couldn’t put it down. I can see why this would be a perfect novel selection for high school students.

When I initially began reading it, I seriously did not expect the story to unravel how it did. I thoroughly enjoyed taking the journey along with Dan and Eddie, meeting the different characters along the way, and embracing the typically Aussie language and ideals of mateship and camaraderie
May 29, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars; the writing isn't the absolute best, as I didn't connect much with the protagonist, and the ending wasn't satisfying enough for me, but otherwise it's wonderful. It's hard to put it down, as it hardly gets boring, and most of the characters seem authentic and genuine. Their brotherly bond is also very real and sweet. Their journey to me reminded me of a painting that kept expanding as their world came to life, eventually reaching the great expanse of the sea.
Retrospectively, I'd give
Dec 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Moving and trully an emotional read. I had to study it for school so if you enjoy the books your school gives you, WW1, Australian History with other themes of Manship, Friendship, Hardship, (lots of other -ships) - This is for you.
Grace D
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: senior-fiction
Having really enjoyed Promise Me Happy, this book was disappointing. There seemed to be gaps in the storyline where the author assumed prior knowledge. A story of resilience and courage in the face of hardship and loss.
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is a good book because it teaches you how to be grateful with what you got
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kate Atkinson
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: loveozya
So many emotions packed into such a short book - another good quality read from Robert Newton encompassing layers of brotherly love, adventure, escape and haunting memories.
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely moving novel that will continue to stay with you, until the next time you pick it up.
Linda Weeks
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Dan’s had enough and takes off from home – the trouble is Eddie, his younger brother has decided to tag along too. What is he to do? Turn around to take him back? Send him back to a cruel and aggressive father – the one he is fleeing from himself?

Eddie is determined and refuses to go back anyway. So to make tracks , Dan has to encourage the marching activity Eddie loves, put up with his incessant chatter and humour him with stories and imaginings. And thus they march away from their old life in
L. E.  Armbruster
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
A brief and romanticised dalliance with two brother, joined by family and separated by the injustices of a cruel world.

"When We Were Two" leads us gently, but immediately into the heart of a young, precocious narrative voice- that of Dan. His innocence is punctuated by a series of quizzical issues that arise as he and Eddie, his charming and slow-witted younger brother make their way across the Australian landscape during the first part of the twentieth century. The plot moves quickly, possibly
Helensvale Library
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sam
When we were two has won a PM Literary Award this year for YP fiction and it is a very deserving winner. Robert Newton has created such endearing characters in Dan and Eddie and these brothers - their relationship, their amazing bond, their Aussie mateship - will draw you into their story. You will walk side by side with them and feel as tho you are with them on their journey, experiencing their hardships and their conquests.

Older brother Dan is fed up with his life and can't take his cruel abus
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book and an effortless read. It is set during the First World War in country New South Wales. Dan has had it. He has to leave home, find his mum, get away from his dad.

But just outside of Gunnedah his little brother, Eddie, and Bess the dog, catch him up, and Dan loses that argument. Then they were two. They are headed to the coast - to Port Macquarie - away from a cruel father and perhaps in search of a mother who took off a couple of years earlier. Intellectually Eddie is
ISLN (Int'l School Library Network) Singapore
When we were two would be an easy read for secondary students. It could easily be read by younger students, but be aware that two brief scenes (one where Dan observes Greeves watching his brother without clothes on and the other where Dan imagines putting his hand under Gracie's blouse) might concern some parents of younger children.

While the story is okay, it is not gripping. It is a bit disjointed and the characters that the boys encounter on their journey never have the opportunity to develop

When We Were Two is a magnificently written book that only just missed out on getting 5/5. I can happily say that this book is one of the best novels that I have read in the past few years and I would readily recommend it to almost anyone. A warning, though: When We Were Two will break your heart. And then heal it, before breaking it again. The novel starts when brothers Dan and Eddie run away from home, determined to find sanctuary and a new life in Port Macquarie. Nothing has ever been easy fo
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Isla B
Feb 10, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was a great read. 'When We Were Young' takes you along on a journey with two boys, Dan and his younger brother, Eddie. With their mother gone, they set off on a journey to the coast, on a search to find her.
The road and journey is long and on the way they meet many great people and share stories and adventures.
Along the way they come across a group of wannabe soldiers who take them under the wing. Together they set off on the journey of a lifetime, over the mountains, on the journey
Lynda Calder
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I smashed through this one. What a story. Set during the recruiting period of WWI when men marched through country towns to reach recruiting station, two young boys run away from home and join up with a small band of would-be soldiers on their way to enlist. These soldiers become more like family and fathers than their real parents.

I have not cried reading a book since finishing "Lord Of The Rings: Return of the King" after finishing Year 12. Frodo leaving over the waters was akin to the end of
Tara Calaby
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was lovely and terribly sad, especially given the time setting of the Great War. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Of Mice and Men and, although it's a YA novel, it should appeal just as much to adults.

I loved the way so much was revealed through what wasn't said, and the fact that, although there was so much sadness in the book's pages, there was always the presence of the best side of humanity as well. The men marching to enlist, in particular, are characters that will stay with me for
Nov 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
I liked this book even though it made me cry.

It is the beginning of World War 1 and Dan leaves home one night, leaving his brother with his abusive father because he thinks he won't make the journey over the mountains. Eddie his little brother, hears him go and follows him with his dog Bess and his billy cart.
Along the way they encounter some adventures. Some of them sad and heart renching and some funny.

A very good read, I recommend it to anyone.
Pam Saunders
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was an unexpected pleasure. A gentle story of two brothers, brave enough to leave a destructive father and search for their mother and the sea.

"Is it blue, Dan?"
"Yeah mate," I say. "It's bluer than anything you've ever seen."

Set during WW1 the boys embark on a journey of 200 miles, most of which is by foot and most of which is also a chance to meet other's who teach them hope and alternatives ways of living and seeing.

Marj Osborne
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
There's more than a touch of Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' to this novel. A different coming-of-age meets road trip story, with two brothers marching across Australia to join in the great war, it's a story of mateship, dealing with the past and family issues, all set in an Australian context. Newton's writing is poetic and literary, almost 'old-fashioned' storytelling, yet most suitable for committed thoughtful readers in Years 8 - 10. ...more
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Although this is a very easy, short read, written for a young adult audience it is a beautifully written story. Set in the NSW countryside, at the beginning of World War I, brothers Dan and Eddie are runnaways, escaping from their violent father. Together they walk the back roads of country NSW, meeting others along the road, both good and evil. With gentle humour, Robert Newton writes a touching story about the search for love.

Warning - You will need tissues. Well, I did.
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written and touching story set in New South Wales during World War I. Two brothers embark on a road trip in search of their mother, escaping an abusive father. Their unconditional love for one another is heart-warming as is the help they find in the most unlikely people and places. (The author will be part of this year's Young Readers' Festival in Hong Kong. I wish I could take my students to meet him but his books are more for young adults than younger readers.) ...more
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
'Good as gold'.

My heart and soul has been wrenched and cracked back and forth. I need time to think this over. My tears are falling and I type.
Beautiful book before the first World War, featuring some of Australia's young men fighting for a better life and journey.

Short and
(ps: my sleeves are soaked in tears.)

IN FACT, I believe this is the first book that I've enjoyed the ending. Bitter sweet.
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I know as a fact that if you do not have an emotional response to a book than it is a bad book. The emotional response I had to this book was spectacular. Never in my life have I found a book that has had such an emotional response. It's a complete crying book but completely worth the read. In the duration of this book I fell in love with Eddie and Dan and wished so more than anything in the world that this book would never end. It is a heart rending story that has no compare. ...more
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war
When We Were Two – Robert Newton.
Dan & Eddie Whelan are young brothers abandoned by their mother in country NSW in 1916, and left with a drunken abusive father who will be the death of them unless they escape.
They walk 200 miles from Gunnedah to Port Macquarie joining a ragged group of men walking through the countryside to enlist and ‘fight the Hun and Turks’. They join these men, are taken under their wing and trek towards their dream. Yet their tragedies are far from over.
Andie Sabrina
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
The author Robert Newton came over to our school for a lecture about his book. The previous week we has our exams, and our English exam was based on this book. At first, reading the book was hard and a bit boring. But once you get into the rhythm of it you start to love it. After the lecture with Mr. Newton, I loved the book more. There is more depth in the book that it seems to offer. Just wished we saw him before the exams.
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Robert Newton works as a full-time firefighter with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. His first novel, My Name is Will Thompson, was published in 2001. Since then he has written four other novels for young people, including Runner, which was published by Penguin in 2005. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and three daughters.

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