Life in Old Photographs: Nine Days

Nine DaysNine Days by Toni Jordan

It is 1939. Deep in the working-class Melbourne suburb of Richmond Kip Westaway, failed scholar and stablehand, is about to live through the most important day in his young life as Australia hovers unknowingly on the brink of war. Eight more days follow, giving a snapshot of the Westaway family across the generations.

First Impressions: I adored the way Toni Jordan conjured up life in Australia in the 1930s. It leapt out at me from page one.

Highlights: I was amazed at how masterfully the settings were brought to life, particularly the earlier decades of the 20th century. I honestly felt like I was walking around in one of my grandparents’ old black and white photos. The more modern decades were also well done but eclipsed by the perfect essence of wartime Australia. I usually find some fault with novels that move forward and backwards in time, favouring one era more than another and wondering if the novel would work just as well if the author picked one story. However, the forwards and backwards in time worked magnificently in this novel and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I was affected in one of the post war chapters when old school and neighbourhood friends were catching up and discussing who made it back and who didn’t in a somewhat offhand way, but I guess those conversations started to feel normal after a while.

If I was an editor: My least favourite of the nine chapters were actually the last two. There was nothing wrong with them but I didn’t find them so compelling. However, they were definitely needed in order to make the novel complete and it’s the sort of novel where the hard punches come throughout, not just towards the end. Also, I didn’t necessarily realise that Kip’s first story is the catalyst for the other eight stories but I’d now like to go back and take a closer look at this!

Overall: Magnificent snapshots.

Nine Days: 5 Stars