The first World War had witnessed more than 40 million deaths all around the world. This means more than 40 million individuals stopped existing; more than 40 million families were destroyed; and more than 40 million loved ones were lost. The period of the World War was termed the age of conflict for very obvious reasons (Cashman & Robinson, 2007). Over the years, writers, poets, playwrights and other artists have attempted to grasp the war from the perspective of the ones who fought the war, the ones who supported the war and the ones who faced the repercussions of the war. This was also the main idea behind novel The Year It All Ended by Kirsty Murray, a simple children’s war book that covers the after effects of the war on the individuals who lost their loved ones (Werry, 2016). This essay will look at the ways in which some individuals managed their grief by looking at a few characters in the novel and comment upon how every individual had their own way of dealing with the loss of a family member.
The novel follows the story of a young protagonist Tiney Flynn and her family post World War I in 1918, where the family attempts to deal with the loss of one of their family members. The 17-year-old protagonist is seen embarking on a journey over the course of the novel to seek her brother’s grave, who lost his life during the war (Clarke, 2014). Along with Tiney, the novel also witnessed various other modes in which friends and family attempted to make sense of the senseless tragedy (Clarke, 2014).
Tiney’s elder cousin brother, Will, gets trapped in Germany in the beginning of the war and is subsequently forced to fight from Germany’s side. Additionally, Tiney’s brother, Will, had also enlisted for the war in 1914 and is expected to return home soon. His family waits for his return home while also speculating what could go wrong. Tiney is constantly seen being positive that her brother will return home and dismisses any negative comments made by her family members (Murray pp. 14). However, the story starts unfolding the true effects of war once the soldiers return back home with irreversible shock and damage. Further, it is revealed that both Will and Louis did not survive the war, a news that completely changes the lives of the Flynn family members.
Every character in the novel is seen dealing with the tragedy at their own pace and in their own way. Everyone reacts differently to death and employs personal coping mechanisms for grief (APA, 2020). Tiney, the main protagonist, is seen completely submerging herself into various plans of visiting her dead brother’s grave in France and paying her respects to the same. She is seen visibly grieving, but attempting to honor her brother’s life by visiting his grave. After many efforts over the course of the novel, she is finally able to reach his grave but contrary to what she thought, instead of feeling peaceful she finds herself more disturbed. With some people, the loss of a person hits them slowly over time. Once Tiney saw the grave from her own eyes, she realized that her brother was in fact really gone and would never be seen or heard again. That is when Tiney was forced to face the reality of the situation.
On the other hand, Louis’s father is seen completely isolating himself after receiving the news of his son’s death. The father barely interacts with his family members and is seen spending his time alone making scrapbooks of Louis’s life. This shows that some family members, especially parents of the deceased have a hard time facing their own child’s death. People tend to isolate themselves in times of grief and spend days remembering the lost ones. That’s one way to deal with grief, to acknowledge the death of a person and remember each and every detail about them. Another way of dealing with grief is by staying in denial and pretending like nothing has happened. This way is adopted by Louis’s mother, who spends all her time embroidering and pretending like nothing happened. The mother is not seen talking about her son a lot and keeps to herself.
However, there is always one member of the family who unites the family after the loss of a loved one and helps them cope with the grief. That member in this novel is Tiney, the young sister of the deceased. After visiting her brother Louis’s and Will’s grave, Tiney focuses all her efforts on bringing her family back together again and helping them face the reality, much like she did herself. This part in the novel highlights the fact that the death of a family member can change the entire dynamics of a particular family. This was seen especially after the war ended, where some soldiers never returned and the others who returned weren’t themselves anymore.
What Murray does beautifully in this novel is give the readers a glance of the after-effects of the war, not from the perspective of the soldiers but by that of the bystanders; the people who were affected by the war, and that included almost the entire world. The war brought along hateful sentiments, trauma, destruction along with the loss of many young lives. The novel beautifully underlines how different individuals share different bonds with the lost ones and deal differently with the grief that follows. Losing a loved one can also change the personality of an individual, as witnessed in the case of Tiney. Some deaths become a part of the person’s personality and define the life journey that person embarks upon.
APA. (2020). Grief: Coping with the loss of your loved one. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/grief
Cashman, G., & Robinson, L. C. (2007). An Introduction to the Causes of War: Patterns of Interstate Conflict from World War I to Iraq. New York, USA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Clarke, A. (2014). The Year it all ended by Kirsty Murray. Retrieved from https://www.readings.com.au/review/the-year-it-all-ended-by-kirsty-murray
Werry, P. (2016). The year it all ended by Kirsty Murray. Retrieved from http://childrenswarbooks.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-year-it-all-ended-by-kirsty-murray.html
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