Tomorrow, When the War Began


John Marsden

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Tomorrow, When the War Began Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on John Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of John Marsden

Marsden was born in Victoria, Australia, but spent most of his early life living in the rural town of Devonport, Tasmania, an island off Australia’s south coast. When Marsden was 10, he moved to Sydney and went to the King’s School, Parramatta, a highly respected boarding school for boys. From King’s School, Marsden enrolled at Sydney University, where he studied law and the arts. He soon dropped out due to little academic interest and struggled with his mental health for some time. Marsden suffered from severe depression and even became suicidal, and he was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital. In his 20s, Marsden worked numerous odd jobs, all of which were unsatisfying, until he began teaching in 1978. Marsden worked as an English teacher at Geelong Grammar School’s Timbertop, a prominent boarding school in Victoria, where he wrote his first young adult novel, So Much to Tell You, in 1987. Marsden hoped to spark his students’ interest in reading with the novel, and it proved to be a huge success, both critically and commercially. So Much to Tell You went on to win Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and Marsden continued to write. He published Letters from the Inside in 1991, which won the Fanfare Horn Book Best Book award, and he followed it up with Take My Word for It in 1992, which was shortlisted for the Children’s Book of the Year Award for Older Readers by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. In 1993, Marsden began the Tomorrow series and published Tomorrow, When the War Began, which proved to be his biggest success yet. The Tomorrow series is largely considered to be one of the most successful series written in all of Australia’s literary history and has won numerous awards and prizes. Marsden is the author of over 40 books and has sold millions of copies around the world; however, since 2005 he has backed off writing and returned to teaching. Marsden opened an alternative school, Candlebark, in Victoria, where he currently serves as principal. He later opened a secondary school focused solely on the arts, the Alice Miller School, also in Victoria.
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Historical Context of Tomorrow, When the War Began

Tomorrow, When the War Began is set in an unspecified modern time in Australia, and as such does not directly engage with any particular historical events. That is not to say that the book has no relation to history, however. Marsden himself has said that he was inspired to write the book after seeing Australian teenagers paying their respects to the efforts of past generations at an ANZAC day parade—an Australian and New Zealand annual day of remembrance for all Australians and New Zealanders who served and suffered in wars, conflicts, or peacekeeping operations. Marsden found himself wondering how modern teenagers—who were often maligned at the time as being lazy, drug-addicted, and so on—might react to finding themselves in the midst of a similar conflict. He felt that the modern youth would similarly respond with courage, responsibility, and heroism, and depicted just that in his novel.

Other Books Related to Tomorrow, When the War Began

Tomorrow, When the War Began is the first of seven novels in John Marsden’s young adult Tomorrow series. The series documents an unknown foreign power’s invasion of Australia and chronicles the experiences of Ellie, a local teenager, and her young friends during the war. Additional titles in the series include The Dead of the Night, A Killing Frost, and the final Tomorrow book, The Night is for Hunting. Marsden followed up the Tomorrow series with a trilogy called The Ellie Chronicles, including While I Live, Incurable, and Circle of Flight, which focus solely on Ellie and her experiences healing after the war is finally over. Other Australian young adult novels that also deal with issues of war and survival include the Once series by Morris Gleitzman, including Once, Then, Now, After, Soon, and Maybe. Gleitzman’s novels follow Felix, a young Jewish boy from Poland, who tries to find his missing parents during World War II. Much of Tomorrow, When the War Began takes place in the remote Australian bush, a setting that is explored both physically and thematically in several Australian novels, including Thirst by Lizzie Wilcock, Jeannie Gunn’s We of the Never-Never, and I, the Aboriginal by Douglas Lockwood.
Key Facts about Tomorrow, When the War Began
  • Full Title: Tomorrow, When the War Began
  • When Written: 1993
  • Where Written: Victoria, Australia
  • When Published: 1993
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Australian Literature
  • Genre: Young Adult Novel
  • Setting: A fictional town in Australia
  • Climax: Ellie, the protagonist, blows up a petrol tanker and destroys the bridge that serves as a major highway for the invading foreign army, weakening the army’s stronghold in the region.
  • Antagonist: The foreign invading army
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for Tomorrow, When the War Began

The Silver Screen. In 2011, Tomorrow, When the War Began was made into a movie by Australian screenwriter and director, Stuart Beattie. The film debuted at number one in both Australia and New Zealand, and it was Australia’s highest grossing domestic film that year.

Odd Jobs. Before Marsden began teaching in 1978, he struggled to find the right job. He worked a series of odd jobs, including an assistant at a mortuary, a pizza deliveryman, and a security guard at a sideshow.