The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
The nine days in Toni Jordan's tale of a working-class Australian family are scattered over seven decades, an archipelago of seemingly unconnected events as witnessed each time by a different member.
Yet every chapter bears a relationship to and impresses upon at least one other.
The recollections finally draw together in the last chapter in the voice of Connie Westaway as she experiences love for the first time with a young soldier about to be posted to the north African front during the second world war.
No matter how distanced, events in one generation can still reverberate in subsequent ones, both directly and in how the generations relate to each other.
Jordan suffuses the book with the sadness of lives unfulfilled and vividly explores the cramped existence and limited choices of the working-class inhabitants of the Melbourne suburb of Richmond in the 1930s.
Connie's beloved brother Kip is the most sympathetic character and Jordan allows him - still mourning the death of Connie after a botched backstreet abortion - to transcend the years as he urges his teenage grandson to realise the importance of the people around him.
"Every time you see someone, you never know if you're seeing them for the last time. Drink them in, Alec. Kiss them.
It's very important. Press your lips against the people you love," he declares.
Like Carol Shields, whose style and focus upon the seeming inconsequential and everyday are similar to that of Jordan, the Australian writer slowly reveals the humanity behind the masks we are forced to hide behind.
She understands the incredible emotional power lying within old photographs, shillings and necklaces and the occluded truths lying with them which can never be totally erased.
This a warm-hearted, tender and elegiac book that asks us to be alert to the family emotions that link us together and which in some ways explain us as well.