A History of the Great War: A Novel


ISBN: 978-0-9750228-8-7 Format: B format hbk Rights: World Release / Publication Date: 01 /12 /2007

This project has been assisted by the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.


It is 1914 and Bairnsdale, Australia, is filled with the news of a war in far off places. Ida Hallam, a young shop assistant, has fallen in love with Ralph Mitton a land surveyor, but Ralph is caught up in the romance and adventure of fighting for his country. Ida envies his freedom, but when he returns wounded and troubled she begins to understand something of the nature of what he has experienced. Years later Ida’s sons go off to fight in the Second World War.

Peter McConnell was born in Echuca. His father was a station master in the Victorian Railways and he has lived in various country towns including Hopetoun, Orbost, Yea, Yarrawonga and Bairnsdale.

A History and Political Science graduate from the University of Melbourne he has worked as a teacher, factory worker and for ten years as a night shift worker at Australia Post. He currently works part time for Green Collect.

He has been writing since the age of 16 and has completed 10 manuscripts (primarily novels, but also collections of stories, poetry and essays). His poetry has been published in journals and newspapers including Westerly, The Age, The Australian, The Bulletin, Kunapipi and Overland.

His short stories have appeared in Quadrant, Australian Short Stories, Mattoid, Herald Sun and Tabloid Story. Awards include Marcus Clarke Award (City of Springvale), Ballarat Begonia Festival Awards, Judah Waten Short Story Award and John Shaw Nielsen Award.

Ida never experiences a climatic triumph, nor an epiphany. Yet her abiding strength and gentle courage see her find wisdom. By incorporating world events into her life’s tablecloth, she domesticates them, revealing ordinary people to be participants and creators of history, not only recipients of it. Perhaps this is a radical and democratic thought, or else proof that the meek and seekers of peace are blessed.

Steve Gome, Australian Book Review June 2008.

Its greatest strength lies in its protagonist, whose personal journey shows a tender, fragile and hopeful side to humanity. Less a history of the great war and more the history of a woman affected by the great war, this is a gentle, simple and straightforward book.

Reg Domingo, Good Reading March 2008.

Despite its subject matter, this is a gentle love story. McConnell forgoes all the grisly details of wholesale massacre, concentrating instead on the small happenings of a small country town.

Hence, there’s talk of the making of lace, of horses being shod, and of dancing in woolshed balls.

Thuy On, The Age 4 February 2008.

McConnell’s strong imagery of the Gippsland countryside is beguiling and the addition of the character of Ida’s son Edward is a breath of fresh air.

Katie Horner, Bookseller and Publisher October 2007.