Nine Days by Toni Jordan
|Nine Days by Toni Jordan|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A tale of moments, intertwining lives and consequences over 70 years, this is powerful, more-ish storytelling at its best; reading it once is never going to be enough.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: January 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
Christopher 'Kip' Westaway lives in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia with mother Jean, sister Connie and his twin, Francis. Kip's mother considers him a layabout who doesn't deserve the special privileges of his educationally elite brother and so he works at the big house next door for the Hustings, caring for their horses. One day Mr Husting presents Kip with a shilling; their little secret. As its 1939, that's a fair amount of money so Kip hides it away, not realising how special that coin will become as the decades pass.
One learns to expect the unexpected from any author who can write a successful comedy novel about OCD; Australian Toni Jordan became such an author with the publication of Additions in 2008. She followed this with Fall Girl, another comedy in 2011 and now, to paraphrase Monty Python, for something completely different in Nine Days. Although there are smiles and a couple of giggles, it's slightly more serious in an exquisite way. Indeed, this is my first 6-out-of-5 book in 2013.
We're seamlessly (and willingly) manipulated by an author who knows what she's doing. Each chapter is a separate day written by a different member of Kip's family across the years from 1939 to the present day; nine chapters, nine people, ranging from the man himself and his brother to his daughters and even his grandchildren. At each stage we know exactly where we are and with whom so there's no confusion and each moment gives us a small snippet of a picture that's not complete till the last page as our perceptions are toyed with. As well as the aforementioned smiles, there are twists and turns and, indeed, audible sobs as the words translate into people with warts-and-all lives and authentic voices if Alec and my memories of teenage boys are anything to go by. (There's also swearing and adult themes but all in context.)
In some ways, Toni Jordan's ability to capture personality reminds me of Fannie Flagg at her best. You may grow to love some characters, like the kind, conciliatory, funny Kip, as I did. Others, like Francis, are just asking to be banished to the naughty step for the rest of their lives. (More politically correct than harbouring violent thoughts; understandable given the circumstances). And when it comes to Jean, will your opinion waver?
There are many examples power and observational astuteness over these 256 compelling pages, the prime example being the end of Jean's chapter. The world of desolation in that final sentence is… You'll see. (Please don't read it till you get there or you'll cheat yourself out a huge amount!)
If you like meaning you're catered for too. Firstly there's exploration of how the smallest item can alter a life, be it a coin, a pendant or a photograph like the wartime kiss on the cover that inspired Toni to write the novel in the first place. Secondly we're invited to examine 'duty' in all its forms. For instance there's the duty emanating from love that we see in Kip or Annabel and the duty that comes from a vision of a better life for loved ones as in Jean's case. When we look at Francis we just see the duty that resides in the place where love normally lives and the consequences of such displacement.
By the way, a quick glossary for those outside Australia: a doona is a duvet, an 'op shop' is a charity/thrift shop and Luna Park is a funfair-ride-type amusement park in Melbourne. That said, you don't need explanation to understand the novel. The themes, population, emotions and enjoyment originating from Nine Days are universal, as is the regret that it has to end.
If you've enjoyed this, we recommend The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis, again a different person per chapter, revealing a whole story panning decades but with a different feel to Nine Days.
You can read more book reviews or buy Nine Days by Toni Jordan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Nine Days by Toni Jordan at Amazon.com.
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