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Jill and her dad are happy enough after her mother dies. Theirs is a simple life in the outback, far from the big city where a coathanger is being built across a sparkling harbour.
Until Jack arrives at their door one evening, and steps inside to find the skinny, wild-looking child sitting with her grim-faced father. It’s the start of all Jill’s problems.
‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ threatens Jack, as he marches off to war. And he’s right, in a way—but this is no ordinary romance.
Spanning the period from the Depression to the freewheeling ‘60s, Helen Hodgman’s award-winning second book is a masterpiece, a twisted fairytale told with her characteristic dark wit.
Ferociously funny to the end. Immensely stimulating, like a small dose of strychnine.
Hodgman’s way with the Australian language makes Barry Humphries pale by comparison. Strange and mad as the story is, it’s sheer delight from beginning to end.
With so many new books available these days, why on earth would a publisher release a 30-year-old book? Hopefully because it’s damn good and deserves to be given another turn in the spotlight. That’s exactly the case for* Jack and Jill, Australian author Helen Hodgman’s 1978 novel, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award. Text re-released her first novel, *Blue Skies, earlier this year and I can’t imagine reading one without wanting to read the other…Hodgman’s grasp of the unsaid, her portrayal of characters’ lack of self-awareness, her ability to keep us hooked despite despicable characters – all are impeccable. This is a lost voice worth rediscovering.
What distinguishes Jack and Jill, Helen Hodgman’s second novel, is her tone of voice: it is unique, entirely her own, owing nothing, as far as I can discern, to other Australian novelists, yet at the same time distinctly Australian…There’s formidable talent here.
If originality is the core of creativity, then Helen Hodgman’s early novels,
presently being resissued by Text (including her strikingly original debut, *Blue
Skies*) deserve front-place ranking in Ozlit fiction.