Nine Days by Toni Jordan
Toni Jordan is well known for her bestselling debut, Addition, which introduced Grace Vandenberg, an obsessive-compulsive, ultra-witty antihero. She followed this with Fall Girl, another superbly comic book in its own right.
Now, in novel number three, Jordan has turned to the ‘serious side’, a move that her readers are sure to enjoy.
Nine Days follows the fortunes of one family, the Westaways, from 1939 until the present day. The family, and their inner-city life in Richmond, are introduced through the eyes of teenager Kip who works as a stable hand.
Lively and perceptive, Kip understands all too well that his family’s status changed forever when his drunken father died after falling from a tram. This, and the beginning of World War II, affects the family more than they could ever imagine.
Kip’s twin brother Francis learns life lessons; his sister Connie experiences first love and its aftermath; and, in a beautifully written chapter full of pathos, Mrs Westaway accounts for her devastating actions. In the next part of the novel, Kip’s daughters tell their own stories. We encounter Charlotte, a yoga teacher, on a day she can no longer contain a secret. We meet Stanzi, who is deeply unhappy with her life and using food to deal with her pain.
The structure of this book – encountering nine characters on pivotal days for each – means there is dramatic tension in every chapter. The rich characterisation and distinctive structure reminded me of Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad – one of my favourite reads. With a background of war, and an inner city Melbourne setting, this is a fine and memorable Australian novel.
Annie Condon is a writer and convenor of a Readings’ Contemporary Book Club.