I picked up The overlanders from the Virago TBR pile for something a bit different - I'm sure it's not the case, but it feels like I am overwhelmed with a pile of Victorian VMCs to read. It's an unusual book since it followed a film, which Birtles helped to write - the film certainly doesn't seem to be available anymore, but there is some information about it on IMDB here.
Set in the Australian outback during the Second World War, it tells the story of what happens as the Japanese start to try to take over areas of the country, and a trek made by one man, Dan McAlpine, with 15,000 cattle to Queensland, to make a place where food can be provided for the Australians. Dan is joined by the Parsons family - Ma, Pa, Mary and Helen who want to escape the bombing even though they have built up their home and business in the Northern territory. What amazing characters Mary and Helen proved to be - exactly the sort of young women that make Virago Modern Classics worth reading, strong, full of character. I loved the descriptions of the riding and the herding of cattle that they get involved with, but at the same time there is the sobering realisation that the people of Australia faced many of the same fears of bombs and war as people did in Europe.
It's Birtle's only novel and it has been published just the once by Virago with this original green cover.