Paul Field’s book Gimme Shelter is a collection of portraits of Australian men and women who have experienced significant trauma in their lives. What emerges from the fifteen compelling life stories is an inspiring and eye-opening depiction of resilience.
It’s certainly not the book that springs to mind when thinking about Paul Field, member of The Cockroaches, managing director of The Wiggles, singer, songwriter, and more. The man’s list of achievements is as mighty as it seems jolly. So it comes as quite a shock to read his interviews with a former Australian Federal Police peacemaker who was nearly assassinated by a child suicide bomber in Afghanistan, Vietnam War veterans, the widow of a firefighter who lost his life in 9-11, and other deeply personal and frequently untold stories of these brave people. The even greater shock, of course, is when Paul reveals his own personal tragedy: the sudden death of his daughter Bernadette caused by infant death syndrome.
It’s perhaps this intimacy to grief and hardship that has compelled Paul to write such a book.
But it’s not all gloom.
Many of these vignettes cherish the ability to overcome adversity. Paul’s book is a dust buster for the taboo around the psychological damage that trauma leaves behind. With all the rhetoric surrounding veterans and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it’s heartening to read Field’s observations, which does an excellent job humanising victims of war – by presenting their courage, their endurance, and how they’ve managed to survive on the frontlines and then later at home.
In the Better Reading podcast, Paul spoke about how his compassion for these special Australians emerged from his own brush with trauma, and how the yearning for shelter is a double-edged physical and emotional yearning – that many aspects of civilian life can seem confusing or overwhelming for those who have lost loved ones, or the clarity of their own mental health. You can listen to the full podcast by clicking here.
But ultimately Gimme Shelter’s greatest charm is its readability. With Paul as your guide, each life story is beautifully rendered with sensitivity and perceptiveness. They are stories of courage, endurance, and survival from the frontline and back home that shine off the page, reminding us that for many service men and women, the hardest battle begins at home.
Royalties earned from the sale of Gimme Shelter are being shared with Soldier On.
Paul Field is a singer, producer, director and managing director of The Wiggles. In a previous life Paul worked for the Supreme Court and was then part of the investigations team at the Wood Royal Commission into police corruption in NSW. He wrote a book on the subject, Confessions of a Crooked Cop, under the pseudonym Sean Padraic. Paul is a passionate supporter of the work of Soldier On.