(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Set on the western front during a period of several weeks in the middle of World War I, the plot of Her Privates, We involves much frenzied and destructive action, yet little happens in the sense of purposeful change. Bourne, a private in the Westshire regiment, is first seen lost in the trenches after an attack, on which he reflects while drinking some whiskey he has discovered. Its owner, a junior officer named Clinton, arrives to claim it; later, Clinton is blown to bits during a working-party up the line at night, his last words being that he knew that he would “get it” there. Meanwhile, Bourne and his buddies, Shem and young Charlie Martlow, who met by chance after a battle and stuck together, engage in survival tricks which include getting sufficient water for washing, purchasing food and drink from the French, and coping with the absurdities of military life. Bourne deals with a wide variety of situations and people. Against his wishes, he is assigned to work in the orderly room as a typist (though he does not type), and there he observes petty meanness and devious manipulations: He is glad to be ordered back to infantry duty. While on parade, several troops are killed by what is at first thought to have been a German bomb; then suspicion grows that it was a British shell. When a corporal tells a Frenchwoman who has offered accommodation that it is “cushy,” she is outraged and knocks him down. Recognizing that she has mistaken that Hindustani...

(The entire section is 517 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Dutton, Geoffrey, ed. The Literature of Australia, 1976 (revised edition).

Jones, Joseph, and Johanna Jones. Australian Fiction, 1983.

Kramer, Leonie, ed. The Oxford History of Australian Literature, 1981.

Murray-Smith, Stephen. “The Manning Revival,” in Australian Book Review. October, 1964, p. 229.

Ramson, W. S., ed. The Australian Experience: Critical Essays on Australian Novels, 1974.