This is not a historical novel in the conventional sense but a narrative consisting of nine vignettes, each taking place over the course of one day. The earliest is set in 1939 and the latest in the early 21st century. Each story is told from the point of view of someone connected to the Westaway family who lived in Richmond, an inner suburb of Melbourne, and it is what happens to some of them during World War II that leads to their continuing special connections.
Fifteen-year-old Kip is given a shilling by his employer, and it becomes his lucky coin. His twin brother, Francis, acquires an amethyst pendant in a dubious fashion that will have significance in the next generation. And grandson Alec will come across a special photograph.
Some stories are funny, others heartbreaking, but all are compassionate and insightful. The author has a light touch that imbues each generation with the attributes that define it. Her dialogue and description of life in war-time Melbourne are so convincing that should she ever decide to write a more expansive historical novel set in this era, her grasp of how people lived and behaved then would guarantee its success.
The cover plays an important role in the book. It shows a photograph of Australian soldiers leaving on a troop train. In the centre one of them leans down, about to kiss a woman being lifted up to reach him. The real subjects of this genuine news photo are unknown, but they were Toni Jordan’s inspiration for the Westaway family.
Read and enjoy this novel not just for its perfect historical snapshots, but for its engaging tale of family and how love binds us all together. This is a poignant, beautiful work and is most highly recommended.