18 December 2009

The Story of Danny Dunn

by Bryce Courtenay

Penguin. Australian, History, Adult Other. Hardback rrp $49.95

Danny Dunn was born in 1920 on the shirt tails of the great depression. His parents run a pub in Balmain and Danny is the local boy who might just get out of the slum and go places. By the time he is eighteen he has everything - good looks, brains, a beautiful and intelligent girlfriend, Helen, and the possibility he might play football for Australia or go to the Olympics representing water polo.

Then World War 2 comes.

Danny’s mother comes from hard working Irish stock and wants to see her son get a University degree. The first in the family. Danny is torn between fighting for his country and finishing his degree to ensure his mother’s dream is fulfilled. To keep his mother happy Danny agrees to finish his degree. But with only a few months left, Danny follows his heart and signs up.

Life for Danny changes dramatically when he is captured at the Fall of Singapore and becomes a prisoner of war working on the Burma Railway. He must constantly fight for his mates’ welfare and his own life. When the war ends Danny returns to Balmain a very different man, both physically and mentally.

The love of his life, Helen, is still waiting and Danny begins to reshape himself. With twin daughters, Sam and Gabby, the Dunn family is complete. But Danny’s demons are always near the surface.
To date I haven’t been a big fan of Bryce Courtenay but the 600 plus pages of The Story of Danny Dunn was something that I could not put down. Three generations through three wars, dramas, ambitions, politics, religion, racism, love. This is a story that will keep you turning the pages long after you want to shut your eyes and go to sleep.
If you have trouble buying a present for a parent, grandparent or great grandparent (or in my case father-in-law), this is perfect. The story contains so much wonderful graphic detail that sometimes I had to remind myself I was reading a fictional story and not a biography. Brilliant!


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