Nine Days

Toni Jordan

Nine Days
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Nine Days

Toni Jordan

It is 1939 and although Australia is about to go to war, it doesn’t quite realise yet that the situation is serious. Deep in the working-class Melbourne suburb of Richmond it is business - your own and everyone else’s - as usual. And young Kip Westaway, failed scholar and stablehand, is living the most important day of his life. Kip’s momentous day is one of nine that will set the course for each member of the Westaway clan in the years that follow. Kip’s mother, his brother Francis and, eventually, Kip’s wife Annabel and their daughters and grandson: all find their own turning points, their triumphs and catastrophes, in days to come. But at the heart of all their stories is Kip, and at the centre of Kip’s fifteen-year-old heart is his adored sister Connie. They hold the threads that will weave a family. In Nine Days Toni Jordan has harnessed all the spiky wit, compassion and lust for life that drew readers in droves to Addition and Fall Girl. Ambitious in scope and structure, triumphantly realised, this is a novel about one family and every family. It is about dreams and fights and sacrifices. And finally, of course, it is - as it must be - about love.

Review

toni-reviewToni 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.

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