My current book is My Brother Jack by George Johnston. It’s partially autobiographical, with a lot of it set in Melbourne between the wars. I’m so used to reading about other places, mostly in the northern hemisphere that I find it a little weird to be reading about a place I know so well. Our protagonist is David Meredith and he lives with his family in or near Kooyong Road, fairly near Caulfield General Hospital. Of course, it wasn’t called that then as it was a convalescent hospital for the returnees from World War I but there’s only one hospital in Kooyong Road so I’m pretty sure it’s the same place.

What I’m doing today is looking at a little bit of the writing and just thinking about what has been written and the effect this can have. This is a potential trigger warning.

A page from My Brother Jack by George Johnston
A page from My Brother Jack by George Johnston

If you look at this photo you can see the headlines about the girl who was murdered. Meredith knew this girl and knew the main suspect, he knew them probably the best of anyone and he’s got the newspaper in his hands having just read about her death and the arrest of the main suspect. You can see those words in the top paragraph with a list of ordinary things happening on the tram around him in the next paragraph punctuated by the headlines again.

My thinking of this list of mundane ordinary things is showing us how life still goes on despite horrific things happening. The ordinary little things punctuate the horrible big things and make them seem more horrific. If you’re able to continue on and see further than the photo you’ll see how the men on the tram are viewing things in a very misogynistic fashion, highlighting how different people view events in a different manner. The list of mundane things Meredith is noticing also shows us he’s in shock at having seen the news. The headlines being repeated could be bringing Meredith back to the horrible news, back to reality and away from the mundanity near his feet but it could also be highlighting the news and making us more aware of this.

At this stage he’s only 16.