A novel of secrets, mateship and betrayal, set against a dramatic backdrop of wartime Australia - a sweeping saga that will be enjoyed by readers who crave action and adventure with a little bit of spice.
When Mike Whalen revisits his former commando training grounds at rugged, beautiful Wilsons Promontory, he's shocked by a chance meeting with the granddaughter of his glamorous old friends, Helen and Johnny.
When Johnny died in the Pacific War, Mike was left with a burden of buried secrets. And as he's drawn back into the life of Helen's family, Mike finds himself overwhelmed by the past, from growing up in melting-pot Broome to tragic guerilla missions in Timor, desire in post-war Hiroshima and betrayal in the jazzy fifties.
Before Mike can turn the bitter tides of memory and have any hope of happiness, he must rebuild his bonds with wartime mates, face his long-held guilt, and finally confront Helen - and himself - with the truth.
From Broome to the Prom via war in the Pacific, this is a powerful saga of mateship, adventure, betrayal and passion.
I grew up near Lake Macquarie, NSW, Australia. As Kate Lance, my history of the charmed life of an old pearling lugger, Redbill: From Pearls to Peace, won the Western Australian Premier's Book Award for Non-Fiction 2004, and in 2009 Alan Villiers: Voyager of the Winds won the Mountbatten Maritime Award. The WWII novel, The Turning Tide, was published in 2014, and the thriller Atomic Sea in 2016. Recent books (as Kate Lance) include Silver Highways, Testing the Limits (Tempo 1), and Embers at Midnight (Tempo 2). I live in green South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia.
*4.5 stars The Turning Tide is a sweeping saga, crossing rural Australia, through to the Timor and the Pacific. It is the powerful life story of Mike Whalen, a young man who hails from the pearling town of Broome and later becomes a commando in the Pacific during World War.
Mike’s compelling story is told via two timelines, it follows his time as a commando, firstly in training at the picturesque Wilsons Promontory, through to his harrowing time serving in the Pacific, namely in Timor. It also looks at Mike’s time as a translator working in post war Japan, where he marries Japanese Australian Betty. When Betty dies, Mike returns to Australia, marries again and eventually decides to retrain at university to become a professor of engineering. A chance encounter with the granddaughter of the man whom Mike swore to protect on his deathbed during the war, reigniting a flurry of emotions for Mike. The reader moves back and forth with Mike as he recalls his glory days in the war, contrasting it to his now sorrowful current existence.
I was completely enamoured by The Turning Tide, enjoying the unfolding story from cover to cover. I whipped through it in three short sittings, all in the space of 24 hours, which indicates how highly I regard this novel. When I wasn’t reading this novel, I was longing to get back to it, namely for the fantastic character study it offers. I will start off with Mike Whalen, the principal character. I loved his narration and the journey he makes from a young man, to a brave commando, to a loving husband and an academic in later life. He is a caring soul, building solid relationships with so many he comes into contact with. These people, a mixture of family and friends, filter through the novel, forming memorable periphery characters in the novel. I enjoyed their stories just as much as Mike’s, as they all seemed to have an integral part to play in Mike’s overall story.
The locales are a stunning feature of The Turning Tide. Lance is ambitious in setting her scene, taking the reader far and wide. Mike takes the reader on a journey from various parts of Australia to the Pacific, to post Hiroshima Japan and back to a changed post war Australia. In each setting, the details are so finely built that the most accurate picture is provided to the reader. Lance also uses setting to contrast her time frames, offering a well drawn picture of life pre World War II, post World War II, into the fifties, right through to 1980’s Australia. I lapped each and every time frame covered, as it was so well drawn.
War is a strong theme in The Turning Tide. It did feel harrowing, offering a realistic picture of the Australian war experience in the Pacific. I found myself learning much about this conflict and feeling slightly embarrassed not to have known more about the conditions, suffering and finer details about this historic battle. I am glad to have had my eyes opened to this essential part in our history. Lance also examines the human psyche and the long term effects this war had on those involved. In addition, Lance sheds some light on the home based experiences of the loved ones left behind. She highlights the sense of the unknown, which many experienced as they were unsure if their men on the front line would ever return home safely.
Romance is also on the agenda in The Turning Tide. It is perhaps the overwhelming reason why I stayed so glued to this novel. Mike’s unresolved relationship with Helen, another main character and the wife of his good friend Johnny, is the main reason why I loved this novel. I held much hope throughout the novel that Mike would finally get his happy ever after. The conclusion more than satisfied my hopes for Mike. The Turning Tide was wrapped up nicely at the end, offering the revelation of a significant family secret but I guessed what this was very early on in the piece. Nevertheless, my overall enjoyment of this novel was extremely high.
The Turning Tide is a book that encompasses love, war, family, secrets and the power of friendship across time and place. The profound narration from main character Mike, made this book and unforgettable read and one I would not hesitate to recommend highly. I look forward to reading more in the future by this author. https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com
Living in Broome in WA as a child of the 30s was a great experience for Mike Whalen; his parents Danny and Lucy owned the lugger-building business in Broome; boats for pearl-shell fishing. Mike had moved across the country and was attending the University in Melbourne – he stayed with family friends in the semester breaks, the O’Briens, helping out on their farm at a little coastal town called Foster near Wilsons Promontory.
When the Second World War began Mike, on the advice of his father, was determined to finish his studies in Engineering; then in 1941 Mike’s parents were forced to relocate to Perth to Mike’s aunt – the dangers were too high for them to remain in Broome. Later that same year, Mike’s best friend Johnny Erikssen joined the AIF – just after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour in December 1941, Mike volunteered for the 2nd AIF…
Forty years after the war, Mike was on a nostalgic tour of the beautiful Wilsons Promontory when he bumped into a young lady who turned out to be the granddaughter of his old friend Johnny Erikssen. Lena was also a student at the university where Mike was a Professor, lecturing in engineering. The memories of the war; the past and the many secrets it held, came rushing back. The pain and grief of his years in Timor; the loss of mates; the memories of post-war Hiroshima and Betty – would it all be too much for Mike to come to terms with? And would there be peace in Mike’s future?
I thoroughly enjoyed The Turning Tide by Aussie author C.M. Lance. A gentle telling, the horrors of war aren’t told in a graphic way – they don’t need to be of course, as we’ve all read accounts that HAVE been graphic. The story is told in the two time frames, and it’s told beautifully. There was mystery, deep friendship between mates, love and sadness; but there was also happiness and profound passion. I found the ending extremely satisfying as well – The Turning Tide is a novel that I have no hesitation in recommending highly.
Three and a half stars. Books about war are not among my favourite genre, but I quite enjoyed this novel, because of the complex characters. Some of the war bits I found hard to read and I admit to skimming those a bit. What I did like was how this story shows the lingering effects of war on the psyche of those who have been involved and also how people sometimes respond to the truth of a situation. It is a story that covers love and lost love as well as secrets kept. These secrets are mostly to do with Mike’s childhood friend and war buddy, Johnny. The story highlights attitudes held by people to those from different backgrounds and how that can change as circumstances change. There is a bit of bad language but it usually is in keeping with the characters. Mike Whalen was an interesting character. Originally from the pearl town of Broome, he meets up with the granddaughter of Helen, an old love. The story moves easily between the present and the past and from Broome to Timor and Japan to Victoria, Australia. It was a book I kept wanting to return to and see how it all played out, though at times I felt it could have done with a bit less description at times. Still, all in all a good read and I liked the way the characters were explored.
Thank you Allen & Unwin for a free copy of this book via Goodreads.
The Turning Tide is a lovely story about a war veteran and lost love. It was such a sweet read and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The relationships were complex and exciting to read about. And even though there seemed to be a fair few, each one felt as real as the other. I found myself waiting with anticipation for Mike to meet up with Helen, and I was not disappointed with how their story ended.
While the romantic aspect was one that appealed to me, it certainly wasn't a simple romance novel. With flashbacks to wartime, C. M. Lance revealed some of the complexities of war and race. Although I did find Mike's attitude one that was very sympathetic (and almost modern, to be honest) a touch unbelievable, it was an excellent and stark contrast to those who turned to prejudice. The racial tension was understandable and, in my opinion, written extremely well.
War in itself is a difficult topic to write about, yet C. M. Lance chose not to only talk about war, but several other issues. I've already mentioned racism, but he also tackled the stigma that homosexuals face and infidelity. The danger of looking at so many different issues is that it can seem too muddled. It can sometimes feel as though the author is trying to fit too much into one story. With The Turning Tide, this wasn't the case. Each issue and relationship was woven into the story beautifully. It didn't feel forced or crowded in the least.
Overall, a very enjoyable and entertaining story surrounding a fascinating main character.
At the outset, I must say The Turning Tide is a thoroughly enjoyable book! I found it hard to put down, reading it in just two evenings.
This is a love story, one suited as much to the male reader as to the female. It contains many elements, tenderness, savagery, soft longings, harsh realities, care, hate, trust and betrayal, all set against a backdrop of tides: tidal Broome, Wilsons Promontory’s Tidal River, the varying tides of life and times, the turning tide of World War Two and the constant tide that is the human condition. All of this is woven through an appealing read by an excellent author.
It’s the 1980s. Mike Whalen is a lecturer in engineering in Melbourne. Although from Broome, where his family built and operated pearling luggers, Mike spent a lot of time in his youth with family friends on a farm near the beautiful Wilsons Promontory. He takes a journey down memory lane, visiting the Tidal River, stopping to look at a memorial to those – Mike included – who trained on the Prom as commandos in the early days of WW2. Strong, lifelong friendships were made.
While there, Mike bumps into Lena, grand-daughter of his friends, the beautiful Helen and debonaire Johnny. It is a surprise to both of them, as they know each other from university, where Mike is one of Lena’s tutors. Meeting as they do, a friendship forms, and we begin to learn their background stories. They are drawn to each other, only in part because of prior associations, but always on the basis of an older/younger family relationship. This is the catalyst to the greater story.
The book recounts three time periods: pre-war, wartime and post-war, moving seamlessly back and forth from one to another. It also recounts three stages of relationship: establishing, strengthening and deteriorating. The balance is well handled. Lance also includes what is effectively a sensitive essay, spread through the book, on homosexuality, something with a direct bearing on the storyline.
We are taken to a number of disparate locations, Broome, Wilsons Promontory, Melbourne, Timor, Japan, all graphically presented. Even more so, Lance has drawn strong characters, most of whom the reader grows to like. No punches are pulled, though, when difficulties arise. One of these is secretive and discovered only after death. It initially comes as a shock, and becomes a major factor in pulling our main character back to reality.
Memories of childhood friendships and separation; the wartime years; a love that was never to be; sad losses and painful recollections from Timor; Hiroshima and the bride he was to lose to radiation-induced haemorrhagic illness; a return to Australia and the adoption of a friend’s two children; the loss of a second wife, all contribute to Mike losing direction. His story is beautifully crafted and draws the reader into his life. Without giving anything away, it all comes nicely together at the end
I believe the reader will be well satisfied with The Turning Tide. It is one of two outstanding Australian novels I have read in a little over a week. It pleases me to see our fictional literature doing so well. Definite four-and-a-half star material.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Set in Australia, Timor and Japan both during and after WW2, and with flashes forward to the 1980s, it follows the life of engineer and commando Mike Whalen and his friends and family.
Lance has a true talent for researching these little-known parts of Australian history and bringing them to life. I had no idea that Wilsons Promontory had been used for commando training, or how badly we had treated the Timorese in WW2.
There was one scene in the book that still haunts me: when Lena says to Mike that he is the loneliest person she knows, and Mike realizes how little he has in his life.
I look forward to reading Atomic Sea, another Lance novel based on Lena Whalen, a character in this book.
I enjoyed this story and characters mainly based around the WWII campaign in Timor. I love it when a story makes me experience a range of emotions throughout the story. It is a story on the horror of war and its aftermath, mateship, complicated families, love and ultimately hope. The story jumps time periods several times per chapter, sometimes throwing me off the flow of the story, but was only a minor complaint.
It took me about two pages to fall in love with this beautiful Australian book. The writing reminded me strongly of George Johnston in My Brother Jack. It had the same sweet-sad narration, heavy with regret but also a sense of wonder and joy. Best of all, it was a pleasure to read, and I fell easily into the pages each time I picked it up.
Loved this book. Found it extremely interesting regarding details about what happened in Timor in WW2. Entertaining throughout. Tells the story of a young man (Mike) serving his country and what happens in the past and then in the future as he tells it though his eyes. Moving forward 40-50 years he meets up with past friends and makes new ones. Both past and future are brought together with a story line that keeps you wondering what comes next. Looking forward to the next book written by C M Lance.