Set against a Vietnam War backdrop, this is a coming of age novel with a historical twist. Sixteen-year-old Kathy drops out of her Catholic girls’ school to take up hairdressing and casual go-go dancing. She is soon bored with suburban life and signs up with an entertainment troupe to perform for soldiers in Vietnam.
Wearing trademark knee high white boots, fringes and bikini outfits, the Hipchicks (Kathy and her two new friends, Gaynor and Layla), are looking for fun and adventure. What they find instead, is the horrific reality of war, particularly when they perform for the wounded in camp hospitals.
It is hard to know who to trust. Their journalist confidante puts ‘the story’ first and even their own friendship becomes strained as the tour progresses.
Kathy is symbolic of the innocence with which many Australians approached the Vietnam War. And as it was for Kathy, their growing up was sudden and harsh. When Kathy returns she must deal with not only the trauma and tragedy she has witnessed but the stigma of having participated in the Vietnam War.
Seen through the eyes of a naive teenager, When the Hipchicks Went to War is an excellent insight into the issues and attitudes surrounding war in general and the Vietnam War in particular. The book has strong moral and historical value as an adjunct to study of the period.
Visit http://www.hipchicks.com.au for competition, Vietnam War information and Hipchicks playlist.