Post-World War II tales of displaced Europeans escaping to an uncertain future Down Under. First published in Australia; read by Deidre Rubenstein. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This remarkable true story, told in two parts by one of the original passengers, commences one torrid summer's day in 1948 with the embarkation of over 500 European refugees from 15 countries, all bound for Australia on the SS Derna. Their vessel was a hastily and poorly refitted old steamship and their claustrophobic journey, with its inevitable clashes of race, religion and class, was lengthened by many weeks as the clapped-out vessel broke down again and again. Nevertheless, lifelong friendships were forged, romances begun and horrific conditions coped with. In the second part of her 500-page book, set 50 years later, Armstrong seeks out and visits as many of the passengers as she can locate, bringing herself and us up to date with their stories. Many of them, having arrived with virtually nothing except the relief of escaping the horrors of war and dispossession, have achieved, if not contentment, at least security, friendship and a place to call their own, and readers will warm to their tales of struggle and achievement. The book brims with stories of generosity, of sacrifice, of parsimony and exploitation but above all, of the determination of people who have lost everything to start again and to succeed, all told in Armstrong's vital, immediate journalistic style. I believe it will have wide appeal. Max Oliver is manager of Lindfield Bookshop. C. 2001 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors