In the 1950s the British military detonated a total of 21 nuclear weapons in various sites in Australia. Maralinga is the most infamous of these sites.
British soldiers were told working at Maralinga was a ‘secret’ assignment and despite the displacement of some local Aboriginal people, many indigenous folks were still exposed to high levels of radiation and later became sick or died. These reports were not publicized.
Australian author Judy Nunn’s Maralinga is a fictional account based on true events.
The novel starts with a love blossoming between a British soldier and female journalist in their home country before a confidential mission changes everything. While their story is the most prominent in the novel, several Aboriginal voices are also peppered throughout the text. Maralinga is character-driven as well as very much centering itself in two starkly different landscapes.
There may be a misconception that this is a book for the female demographic. It isn’t. This book has wide appeal for those interested in Australian and English history, romanticism, the 1950s, war, feminism and vivid landscapes.
While those that are already hard ’n’ fast Judy Nunn fans are sure to love it, it’s a good introduction to those that haven’t been driven to pick up her titles before.
However, if you are like me, you may find you are sufficiently incensed at the violation of sovereign Australian territory and the complete lack of regard for the health of those involved and the health of the local indigenous population.
Times were different then, but not so different that they did not take certain precautions. The personnel involved were told to don sunglasses and turn away from the blast to provide protection. Some onlookers wore shirts and shorts! Incredible now with the hindsight of time that the English organizers could think this was safe practice.
Documentation on Maralinga and the contamination can be found here.
It’s been ten years since I started Something to Ponder About, and the reproduction of this early post is quietly marking that occasion.