I thought it was the best of your writing I’ve read. Some fantastic descriptions and the character Boney came across beautifully.

Jane Rees

Overall Dell, my first impression on reading this chapter was that you really enjoyed writing it and it flowed so well, like you have your voice and your language just humming at the moment and you are seeing it all really clearly in your mind, a bit like Steve Smith is seeing the cricket ball.

Setting: so much clear detail and taking the reader into the horror of the battle field, including the travails with the technology of the time, and some insight into what was on the men’s minds as they performed their duties in this theatre of war.

Story: working in such a death stinking environment, there was always the threat that Boney would become consumed by it all, but we think-wish he is apart from it and doing okay, keeping himself safe, and then you push it deeper through his encounter with Ced, and the fact that his wife is pregnant and we just know him so much more.

Structure: with such a focus on Boney and his direct experience, the three-act structure of the chapter works okay, first his direct observation and experiences and then his catchup with Ced adds the new dimension, then the tragic final scene. Character Boney is the universal soldier, he is everyman, whose value and virtue never expires.

Voice: the narrator’s voice displays authority, clarity, compassion (to say ‘the awful truth’ tells us something about narrator and where the narrator thinks their reader is at).

Dialogue: works well.

Time: in this chapter it is straightforward. 

Pat McGowan

Great read. Still enjoying it. 

Lynette Kuskey

Botany Boys is a work of fiction in the historical, interpersonal drama, and slice-of-life subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience. In this heartfelt wartime tale penned by author Dell Brand, a close-knit group of friends from the Sydney suburb of Botany answer their country’s call during World War I. What they anticipate as an adventure quickly turns into a gruelling five-year ordeal. As they face challenges, fear, and losses on the battlefields of Gallipoli and France, they also find unexpected moments of lightness and romance. The novel explores themes of friendship, camaraderie, and the preservation of a way of life amidst the overwhelming challenges of war. Through their experiences, the characters learn the value of friendship and the high price of their convictions.

Based on real historical accounts, author Dell Brand has crafted a snapshot in time that perfectly captures the daily horrors and sacrifices of World War I. I went on a deeply emotional journey with this work, one that immerses you in the poignant experiences of these young men and masterfully captures the stark contrast between the boys’ initial expectations of adventure and the harsh realities they face on the battlefield. The author’s vivid descriptions elicit a rollercoaster of emotions, from the heart-pounding fear and anxiety of combat to the lighter moments of camaraderie and unexpected romance that offer brief respites from the darkness, and the dialogue feels authentic to the period yet fully human and relatable for us in the here and now. Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Botany Boys to all fans of wartime drama and tales of courage.

Rating: 5-Star

K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

“War does not determine who is right, but who is left.” – Bertrand Russell. Botany Boys is a historical fiction novel written by Dell Brand. When World War I began, a group of childhood friends from Botany, Australia joined the military, anxious to serve their country and return home safely to their loved ones. Little did they know that their perceptions of war did not even come close to the rough inhumane realities they would experience fighting in foreign lands. Harry didn’t take orders very well and was always in trouble. Frank joined the army to escape his unhappy married life, while Boney left a glum fiancée waiting to marry him. Everyone had their reasons for serving in the war.

Botany Boys is a highly pensive historical novel that will leave you sorrowful as you bond with each of the main characters; feeling their angst, fears, and brief joyful moments they encountered during the world war. Dell Brand’s masterful writing is a very realistic, accurate, and in-depth account of the conditions and dangers faced by soldiers, medical staff, and citizens in ‘The Great War.’ Despite the challenges faced and losing friends on the battlefield and in raids, romance and friendships were formed. The young matured and aged very quickly. It’s difficult to imagine how these brave soldiers and volunteers coped without proper equipment, maps, and other much-needed resources in primitive locations. Botany Boys is one of the best books I have read on World War I. It is dedicated to the thirty-nine brave soldiers of Botany who served in World War I and lost their lives, as well as those who returned home wounded, shell-shocked, or scarred from the horrors of the war. History lovers will find this compelling book interesting.

Michelle Stanley for Readers’ Favorite

Botany Boys by Dell Brand, like the First World War it depicts, is a gripping, emotionally devastating, wholly unforgettable epic tale of a cadre of hometown mates from the Sydney, Australia suburb of Botany, the horrors they experience, the women they love, and the losses they endure in support of God and country. As they face the hardships of a war they neither asked for nor started, these brave men and women make unimaginable sacrifices, overcome impossible odds, cope with loss and grief seemingly beyond comprehension, and cement their places of honor in an increasingly forgotten chapter of history richly deserving of remembrance and reverence. Brand’s characters are so real and compelling that readers will experience their triumphs and losses as if they have a personal connection to each one.

Apart from being a first-rate storyteller, Dell Brand is a gifted historian. Alternately beautiful and brutal, Botany Boys gives readers a firsthand view of a world at war that no one living can remember and tells stories (based on actual service records and painstakingly researched) that are too important ever to be forgotten. Her scholarly passion for World War I lore shines from every page, resulting in readers feeling as if they have been transported through space and time to inhabit the era as thoroughly as the characters do. As a result, historical fiction enthusiasts will be richly rewarded by the universe of fine detail in the text. In Botany Boys, Dell Brand has crafted a timeless and unforgettable panoramic tale of love, loss, triumph, grief, pride, honour and longing, with a crystalline focus that brings history to life in palpable ways.

My grandfather, a WWI veteran who died in 1993 just 3 weeks short of his 101st birthday, flew a Sopwith Camel with the Royal Canadian Air Force in a special unit out of Texas (America did not yet have an air force at the time). For his 100th birthday, my aunt arranged for him to go up in a restored Sopwith Camel and, FAA regulations being what they are, he was able to take over the operation of the plane via the dual controls. The photos from that time show him grinning from ear to ear on landing, thumbs in the air. I never saw him so beatific. Nothing I have read in my lifetime has helped me to feel what his experience in WWI must have been like more than Botany Boys. Thank you for this wonderful gift! My grandfather was not a talker, so I never had the chance to hear about his WWI service firsthand. Your wonderful book helped me to fill in a lot of blanks and now I feel like I know what kind of man he was and the experiences he had.

Rich Follett for Readers’ Favorite

Botany Boys by Dell Brand is an engrossing read that had me gripped from the first page. The outbreak of war in Europe had a massive impact on the tight-knit community of Botany, New South Wales. Boney, Ced, Harry, Simmo, and others, all childhood friends, had their lives brutally interrupted as they variously joined the Australian army and travelled far from home. Far from being ‘home by Christmas’, the war was to drag on for four long years. Brand cleverly weaves her narrative of the course of the war around the experiences and travails of each of the Botany Boys. The reader anxiously turns the pages, willing them all to survive. The sheer waste, tragedy and agony of the war, from Gallipoli to the Somme, are painted poignantly on every page.

Brand’s brilliance can be seen in her ability to include so much factual content in her writing, making her characters appear completely authentic. Each chapter is named with a physical place and a date, following the progress of the main theatres of the war, which added to the reality of the novel. The burgeoning romances of both Ced and Jeanne and Boney and Clara provide a breath of fresh air for the war-buffeted reader, as do the letters sent from Eliza, back home in Botany, to her brothers Harry and Ced retelling the mundane activities of normal life. I thoroughly enjoyed Dell Brand’s novel, turning each page with anticipation and anxiety. Botany Boys is a rare book – read it!

Frances Deborah Kerr-Phillips for Readers’ Favorite

Dell Brand explores the horror of war in Botany Boys. “War is a terrible thing and, whatever happens to you over there, you’ll be changed forever when you come home,” said Jesse Bentham to his son Alfie, who was one of a group of young men from Botany, Australia. Douglas Rathbone, aka Boney, grew up in a dysfunctional household with a drunken and abusive father. His refuge from the discord and poverty was hanging out with his friends Alfie, Ced and Simmo. Ced Miller’s family consisted of his siblings, as tragedy had befallen both his parents. Ced wanted to escape from Botany as soon as possible. Boney didn’t intend to leave, but the beginning of the “Great War” awoke his patriotic fervour to serve. Boney yearned to see action and believed that the conflict would be settled quickly, although the fierce fighting soon changed his opinion. After years of being under fire, the boys from Botany became men.

Botany Boys is a most engaging work where the omnipresent destruction of war is witnessed through the eyes of a handful of young men and women. Boney’s transition to manhood was a bumpy journey as his wartime service took him from Egypt to Turkey and on to France. While initially keen to experience combat, the widespread carnage and devastation took its toll. Each passing year matured Boney along with his comrades-in-arms, with the cold hand of death altering the men’s priorities and strengthening their will to survive. Dell Brand did a commendable job in capturing the spectrum of emotions that run through the minds of enlisted men as well as those awaiting their return. The futility and frustration of war are conveyed in a way that will stay with the reader well after finishing this excellent book.

Reviewed by Philip Zozzaro for Readers’ Favorite



Other Adult Books by Dell that you may like…

  • As the lumbering jet swoops low over the grey, legoland housing rows that surround Heathrow Airport, the story of the author’s year of living in England begins. Recipients of a teaching exchange, Australians Dell and John are bound for schools in the West Midlands, and find that things are quite different in Brummyland.
  • The story of two young women determined to live outside the confines of the Victorian Age and who have a lasting impact on the fledgling town of Melbourne.
  • An epic story of life and death amid the turbulent years of the Victorian gold rush, narrated by the three main characters, Adam, Joey and Tom.
  • Penny Taylor, from London’s East End, finds herself part of the struggling Hapless family, living in a caravan park in the Illawarra on the south coast of New South Wales. She is kept busy with three young children, two of whom belong to Dudley Hapless, her present partner and a professional basketball player with the Hawks.