Kayte Nunn has written an excellent story in The Last Reunion to bring to light an almost unknown group of women. Australian, English, and Indian women served in the Burma Campaign of World War 2, as WAS(B)s. Their Auxiliary Service was closest to the frontlines of fighting, and they suffered the same conditions as the soldiers. Their mission was to bring comfort to the soldiers by providing tea, sandwiches, cakes and company. They were constantly on the move and worked many hours a day and night to “alleviate the hardships of the campaign.” Many were mentioned for their bravery.
This cleverly woven tale follows the young women who enrolled as volunteer WASbs. It tells their story and follows their journey throughout Burma. Alongside this story is the tale of Olivia, set in the 1990’s, an Australian woman who has come to England to pursue a career in fine arts. She is particularly interested in a Japanese netsuke, a small hand carved ivory figure, which was stolen from a museum many years previously.
It is this figure which brings Olivia to Beatrix, one of the women serving in Burma many years before. The story moves easily between the past and the present giving the reader a clear understanding of the friendship, loyalty, and the courage these women had and still retained.
Kayte Nunn has presented a wonderful story, which cannot help mention the horrors of Burma, but does so in a way that is not upsetting or graphic. The courage, resilience and determination of the men and women are shown, while the crazy laughter and humour are such a release. It is a shame that these women have not received more open acknowledgment and congratulations must go to the author for bringing their exploits to light. The Last Reunion is such a diverse and entertaining read.