The bombing of Darwin in 1942 is an event that is rarely explored, yet surprisingly interesting. Albert James’ explores this event in No Stamp Available through two different perspectives; Harry and Catherine, who are adults during the bombing and that of their children – primarily the alcoholic Charlie- learning about what their parents experienced sixty three years after the bombing. The idea is interesting and some components were promising, but the language destroyed any hope of me really engaging in the story.
Having the two stories intertwine is great because having only one would have made it even duller. We get to see the impact of a disastrous event on those who weren’t old enough to experience it as well as what the parents were like before the event. There were even letters, which might have been primary sources, that contrasted with the mellow feel of the rest of the story, strengthening their impact. One of these elements would have been boring on its own, but the integration of all three was a good way to keep interest.
What let the whole story down was the language. It was just so awkward and focused on telling us what was happening instead of showing us. It was bad for most of the story, but atrocious as dialogue. It just felt stinted, which then made it different to connect to the characters. For example. Charlie’s issues with alcohol would have been so much more interesting if we got a feel of it instead of being told that it was a situation. Honestly, the writing made it feel like an early draft where James was still trying to get to know his characters. If he just worked on the writing a little bit more, it would have been a much more enjoyable read.
There was clearly a lot of research done for this story. Unfortunately, this information is provided the same way as the emotions – through telling. Some inclusions of images made the story in general feel more authentic. If you don’t know anything about Australia during World War II, you will get a solid understanding through Catherine and Harry’s journey. I even got to learn more about Darwin and the rural areas of Australia.
Even though No Stamp Available is an interesting concept, it fails to be mesmerizing. If James explored his ideas even more and strengthened his writing, it would be a much better book.