Nine days in the desert
Nine Days is a departure from romantic comedy for Toni Jordan, whose two previous novels Addition and Fall Girl, I both read and loved. Nine Days was inspired by the photograph on the cover, which was taken during World War Two, and shows a young woman farewelling a soldier on a train station. Around this image, Jordan has built a story from the point of view of nine different but interrelated people, recounting a significant day in their lives.
This is not historical fiction. The stories range across time, coming up into the present, but they all interlink around the central story, providing different angles and insights. As in her other novels, Jordan's writing is zesty, witty and easy to read, however the really impressive thing with this one was that it had nine different, and totally believable voices.
The stories are all set in the same Melbourne suburb and the photograph, along with a coin and a pendant, provide a motif to link them together. Really, it reads as a series of linked short stories more than a novel, but whatever you call it, it worked.
Writing a novel from nine points of view is an ambitious undertaking. The risk is that the reader won't be able to become emotionally involved enough with any one character. At the end of each character's story, I was sorry to be leaving them to move onto the next.
However, by the end of the book, I felt satisfied with having met such a diverse array of characters and this deepened the impact of the final story when it came. The last story is Connie's, the young woman in the photo and it's probably not giving too much away to say that it had me in tears.
I picked up this book expecting to feel disappointed by Jordan's departure from romantic comedy, at which she excelled, but found exactly the opposite. Mixing both light and dark, Nine Days is storytelling at its best. While not comedic in tone, the writing is fresh and easy to read.
Jordan says in the acknowledgements that she is not a writer who has a profusion of ideas; rather her creative brain is 'like a desert across which the odd ball of tumbleweed occasionally rolls'. I'll certainly be watching out for the results of the next ball of tumbleweed that rolls on through.
Books reviewed are available from the Book Warehouse in Lismore.
Title: Nine Days
Author: Toni Jordan