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To be a hero's wife in times supposedly suited to the heroic caused a woman to swallow doubt.

To be a hero's wife in times supposedly suited to the heroic caused a woman to swallow doubt.

I knew in general terms I was marrying a hero. The burden lay lightly on Leo, and to be a hero's wife in times supposedly suited to the heroic caused a woman to swallow doubt… The Japanese had barely been turned away. It was heresy and unlucky to undermine young men at such a supreme hour.

When Grace married the genial and handsome Captain Leo Waterhouse in Australia in 1943, they were young, in love - and at war. Like many other young men and women, they were ready, willing and able to put the war effort first. They never seriously doubted that they would come through unscathed.

But Leo never returned from a commando mission masterminded by his own hero figure, an eccentric and charismatic man who inspired total loyalty from those under his command. The world moved on to new alliances, leaving Grace, like so many widows, to bear the pain of losing the love of her life and wonder what it had all been for.

Sixty years on, Grace is still haunted by the tragedy of her doomed hero when the real story of his ill-fated secret mission is at last unearthed. As new fragments of her hero's story emerge, Grace is forced to keep revising her picture of what happened to Leo and his fellow commandoes - until she learns about the final piece in the jigsaw, and the ultimate betrayal.


"This summer, I think (I will read) Thomas Keneally, who's just brought out a new book which is about war and heroes," he said.

Gordon Brown, Former PM of Great Britain, BBC

... accomplished and highly readable ... enlivened by meticulous descriptions ... The Widow and her Hero reveals a writer who has lost none of the skill and talent he has been demonstrating for decades ... Above all, The Widow and her Hero is distinguished by its memorable portrait of two women: the quiet, thoughtful Grace and the fiery Dotty. They ... raise Keneally’s new novel to an admirable height of achievement.

Andrew Riemer, The Sydney Morning Herald

Any new work by this master of moral complexity is a matter for rejoicing. He looks into the heart of the human condition with a piercing intelligence that few can match.

David Robson, Sunday Telegraph (UK)

Exceptionally good ... the work of a master storyteller.

Allan Massie, Scotsman

A subtle examination of heroism ... This clever, compelling novel asks some uncomfortable questions

Penelope Lively, The Guardian

In the fifth decade of his career, Ton Keneally’s powers of renewal and his unflagging appetite for story-telling distinguish his latest novel, The Widow and Her Hero. He turns to his favoured historical period - the Second World War, where a number of his works are set - and in particular to the commando raids against Japenese shipping in Singapore in 1943 and 1944. This master class fiction work is an interrogation of the nature of heroism, perhaps unproblematic for men in action, but of deep ambivalence for the women left behind.


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Formats & editions

  • EBook


    November 1, 2010

    Random House Australia

    304 pages

    Online retailers

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  • Paperback


    March 1, 2008

    Vintage Australia

    304 pages

    RRP $19.99

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Awards and Recognition

  • Miles Franklin Literary Award
    Miles Franklin Literary Award
  • Prime Minister's Literary Awards
    Prime Minister's Literary Awards