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Maralinga by Judy Nunn - Book Review

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by Annette Vandersluis (subscribe)
I love to travel and some time ago discovered I also love to write, combine this with my husband's photography and we get to share it all with you. Please visit us at
Published March 6th 2016
Lose yourself in this tale of love and heartache
Maralinga by Judy Nunn is a story of love and murder, intrigue and spies, bringing many genres into one spine chilling novel.

judy nunn, maralinga, paul kelly, midnight oil, woomera prohibited area
Maralinga by Judy Nunn, Photo Courtesy of Judy Nunn Website

Set initially in Aldershot southern England in the mid 1950's, Maralinga tells the story of British Journalist Elizabeth Hoffmann and how, from a very young age, this strong, independent young woman follows her dream to be part of a male dominated industry. In pursuing her dream she finds others who will support and mentor her, but what she does not expect to find is love in the form of Daniel Gardiner, a young Lieutenant with the Royal Army Corp Service. However, it takes Elizabeth quite some time, and considerable work by Daniel for her to realise she is in love. In the meantime Elizabeth, posing as EJ Hoffman, undertakes a campaign to ascertain a position in a London newspaper; an eventuality which is discouraging for Daniel as this will take her away from his base.

judy nunn, maralinga, paul kelly, midnight oil, woomera prohibited area, aldershot
Aldershot and the British Army - photo courtesy of Jack1956, Wikimedia Commons

As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder, and eventually Elizabeth does realise that she is in love with Daniel and the two become engaged, only for Daniel to take a posting at Maralinga, in the Australian outback. Maralinga is situated about 800 kms north-west of Adelaide South Australia, and is the site of British atomic testing which was conducted between 1956 and 1963. It is now part of the Woomera Prohibited Area.

judy nunn, maralinga, paul kelly, midnight oil, woomera prohibited area
Map of South Australia showing Maralinga, Image Courtesy of Bill da Flute, Wikimedia Commons

Fast forward a short time, and Daniel's parents and Elizabeth receive news that he has been killed in an unfortunate accident while on duty. However, Elizabeth's quick mind and suspicion soon drive her to delve deeper into the world of the secrets of Maralinga. A letter from Daniel written only days before his death, lead Elizabeth to believe that his death was neither accidental nor suicide as the Army has now wants her to believe.

judy nunn, maralinga, paul kelly, midnight oil, woomera prohibited area
Maralinga Landscape, Photo Courtesy of Wayne England, Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth relocates to Australia and becomes a sharp reporter for the Adelaide Advertiser, using her contacts to conduct an indepth investigation into Daniel Gardiner's death. Elizabeth again reluctantly finds love in the form of Australian Army Colonel Nick Stratton, and the two engage in a torrid affair. Between them Nick and Elizabeth find out the truth behind Daniel's death, but you will have to read the book for that to be revealed.

judy nunn, maralinga, paul kelly, midnight oil, woomera prohibited area
Warning Sign for Woomera Prohibited Area, Photo Courtesy of kr.afol, Wikimedia Commons

While Daniel, Nick and Elizabeth are undoubtedly the main characters in this book, others also feature. The troubled Patraeus Mitchell, bushman and anthropologist; Harold Dartleigh, Deputy Director of MI6; Gideon Melbray, the well loved and lovable undercover operative and Melvyn Crowley, the insane scientist who thrives on human experimentation. However, in no lesser degree, is the stories of the Aboriginal peoples whose lives and lifestyles changed forever because of what was undertaken here. Of how they did not understand what the huge mushroom in the sky meant; how they believed it was spirit speaking to them and how the white man brutally rounded them up and moved them albeit in an effort to ensure they should not be harmed; but they did not find them all.

judy nunn, maralinga, paul kelly, midnight oil, woomera prohibited area
Aboriginal boys and men in front of a bush shelter, Photo Courtesy of Caledon Bay Peace Mission Collection of the Northern Territory Library, Australia, Wikimedia Commons

This is a story of love, intrigue and horror which ends in a way you just would not expect. It is clear that extensive research was undertaken in the writing of this novel, however there is so much conflicting information available, that it is easy to believe that nobody, other than those that were there at the time, really know the truth. This story enables the reader to get a basic understanding of what was and the effects that it had on a nation and has also been told in song by great Australian artists such as Paul Kelly and Midnight Oil.

judy nunn, maralinga, paul kelly, midnight oil, woomera prohibited area
Paul Kelly 2007, Photo Courtesy of Paul Kelly, Wikimedia Commons

judy nunn, maralinga, paul kelly, midnight oil, woomera prohibited area
Midnight Oil, Photo Courtesy of Flickr, Wikimedia Commons

While this book is classified as fiction, it is a great introduction to an eventful period of time in Australian history.
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Why? A great read into Australian history
When: Anytime
Where: Any good bookshop
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