Beneath the Willow


Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
398 Pages
Reviewed on 01/21/2019
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Author Biography

Author Michael J Murphy lives in rural New South Wales with his wife and five children. While working as a journalist for a country newspaper, Michael has combined his passion for writing with his life-long interest in history to produce his first novel, Beneath The Willow.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite

A compelling historical novel with a setting in 1916, Beneath the Willow by Michael J Murphy plunges the reader into a world ravaged by war. It's against this backdrop that the author weaves a narrative that explores the horrors of war, with powerful hints of a psychological thriller and strong themes of love, war, and family. Clarence Miller returns from war with the hopes of giving a fresh start to his family, but he is a haunted man and his inner demons threaten to tear his family apart. Amidst a painful tragedy, redemption may come from a least expected path; a young woman from Clarence's past.

This novel has a lot of merit and potential to entice fans of historical events. The author's depiction of New South Wales after the war is powerful and this backdrop allows for the emergence of characters that are sophisticated, and it also justifies the psychological and emotional depths of the characters. Backstory is brilliantly crafted, the conflict phenomenal, offering powerful insights into the minds of people who have experienced the trauma of war. Clarence is a well-sculpted character who will arouse feelings of empathy in the reader. Michael J Murphy is a master of the craft with keen storytelling skills. He uses suspense to get readers engaged and creates surprises that are as unpredictable as they are delightful. Beneath the Willow is a great achievement, a work that features exquisite prose, memorable characters, and plot intricacies that make for a perfect page-turner. Beneath the Willow is entertaining and hard to put down.

Louanne Piccolo

Beneath the Willow by Michael J Murphy is a book about love, loyalty and wasted lives. This epic family saga spans three generations with a central focus on a tragic love story. Clarence Miller returns home from the Great War a changed man. His wife, Ruth, welcomes him with open arms and a new son. Sensing a difference in her husband, she hopes that her love will heal him. Unable to understand the unrelenting horror that plays repeatedly in Clarence's mind, Ruth's parents suggest they move to the country to start over. Do they find peace or do Clarence's demons follow him? Readers will really enjoy this book. As well as being a spellbinding story, it contains fascinating information about Australian culture and valuable historical references about the country's role in the Great War.

A tragic tale which carries hope for the future generations, Beneath the Willow reminded me of The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. I immensely enjoyed this story. Michael J Murphy's book is a powerful page-turner that made me cry more than once. It gives real insight into the trauma soldiers experienced and the heartbreak their families suffered, but also flirts with young love and innocence. Expect the whole range of human emotions while reading Beneath the Willow and you won't be taken by surprise. The characters are so believable that I loved Ruth, hated Frank, and sympathized with Alice as if I knew them personally. So sad, yet so beautiful; you won't regret the journey you've allowed Michael J Murphy to take you on.

K.C. Finn

Beneath the Willow is a work of wartime fiction penned by author Michael J Murphy. Combining the dramatic backdrop of the First World War with the day to day dramas of living in such hard times, the book first follows Clarence Miller as he is released from duty and sent home to his family in Balmain, New South Wales. Having witnessed the carnage and senseless mass violence of the battlefields of northern France, Clarence returns a damaged man. The action continues as he tries to deal with his trauma and reconnect with his old life and his wife and son, but the scars of what he’s seen will follow him through the rest of his days.

It’s interesting to follow a single person’s experience through the horrors of the world’s largest and most senselessly violent war, and how their survival can still have a terrifying impact on the rest of their lives. In Beneath the Willow, Clarence is a painfully well-drawn central character; deeply flawed, vulnerable, but also determined to try to get back to life as it was. He seems to be returning to an idyllic situation, but cast against the very well-described graphic horrors he has witnessed at Fromelles, Clarence’s brain doesn’t seem to be able to pair the two experiences, creating a split that carries through his family’s development as time passes. The time lapses are dealt with very well by author Michael J Murphy, as is the parlance of New South Wales and the well-described struggles of working class life.

Tracey Ingold

A great read! Interesting story & characters.

Rachel Murray

I really enjoyed this book and read it very quickly as I became engulfed in the lives of the characters. They represent so many of our everyday Australian families and what they endured through WWI and WWII. Having previously read many stories on Australian War History and re-counts from soldiers, I really enjoyed this novel as it involves and tells the story of both sides, the soldier in the battle and the family at home waiting for news. Whilst also giving an insight into the long lasting effects of war on all of them. It is a true indictor of how, for the soldier and their family, the war does not end at the cessation of hostilities. It has shown the ripple effect through the generations and makes me consider the 'sliding doors' effect of life before and life after. The trajectory of peoples lives altered forever, through no choice of their own. This is a very well researched and well written book. There are moments of actually laughing out loud, particularly at some of the great 'Aussie' banter, so typical of the time, feelings of pride and also moments of tears as it really strikes a chord.