cover image The Long Green Shore

The Long Green Shore

John Hepworth. Text Classics (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-9221-4782-0

There have been few great novels of WWII in the Pacific, and this is one of them. Australian author Hepworth (1921–1995) based this story on his own wartime experience, creating a gritty, vivid, and convincing tale of Australian infantrymen fighting the elusive Japanese in the steaming, rotting jungles of New Guinea in early 1945. Written in 1949, this novel is a masterpiece of war fiction, depicting the grim lives of Aussie soldiers in an obscure and unnecessary campaign against a starving, disease-ridden enemy. Pez and Janos are close friends in an infantry platoon, veterans of North Africa and Greece, now stuck on a miserable island where sickness and snipers take a daily toll. The New Guinea campaign goes on for months, with the troops suffering from illness, boredom, and the petty discipline of martinet officers. Like all soldiers, Pez and Janos gripe about everything—clueless officers, bad food, the constant rain and clinging mud, and the stink of the jungle—all while fantasizing about women and booze, and wondering when the war will end and they can go home. When the fighting comes, Janos stalks snipers and assaults machine gun positions to prove to his commander that he is not a coward, and the platoon attacks fortified positions and loses a lot of men. Best of all are Hepworth’s strong, rich portrayals of men at war, determined to do their duty and resigned to their fate, hoping they will survive. (Jan.)