My Brother Jack – My Great Uncle George
My Brother Jack, by George Johnston is quite well known in Australia as a great piece of Australian Literary Fiction. Although the book was known and recognised in its own right, it is the tele-movie series in 1965 and then again in 2001 which most adult Australians would be most familiar with.
I wish I had known more about my Great Uncle George before my late Grandmother passed away. George Johnston was her brother and it was not until she was interviewed for his biography that I learnt of my family relationship with the novelist. It took me even longer to discover that I too shared his love of writing. By the time I knew I wanted to be a writer, I had moved away and my Grandma had grown much older. All I have learnt of my Great Uncle George has been through IMDB, Wikipedia and my parents limited knowledge.
Some say My Brother Jack is a semi-autobiographical book about George and his family, however my Grandmother disagreed with this notion intensely. I recently decided it was time for me to read the famous book; to discover more about Great Uncle George. Was it truly his life story? What type of writer was he?
There was only one problem, I found the book very difficult to get stuck into. The language was from a bygone era and I found it difficult to relate to the early post war life of the main characters. I had to work hard to push through the first third of the book. It was a little ‘stuffy’ and to be honest, slow paced and somewhat boring at times; something I mentioned to my dad (George’s nephew) recently and he had to agree although he really enjoy’s Uncle George’s war correspondence.
It has taken me a while to finish My Brother Jack, but I think I now understand why this book became such a quintessential depiction of post World War I in Australia. It really does paint a picture of The Depression and life after the war. The story continues through post war capitalism and then into World War II where George and his character Davy become a famous war correspondent.
The book certainly raised questions about Australian history. It was quite remarkable to realise the changes in our culture over less than 100 years. I think the most interesting change was how the majority of Australian children lead very different and privileged lives today.
Whether the book depicts George’s real life or just a little piece of it, I believe it is definitely semi-autobiographical. Sorry Grandma….
Although it was tough reading, I believe I might have to read the rest of the series, especially if it continues to follow Great Uncle George’s carrier in journalism and writing. If nothing else, it has definitely influenced my writing journey. If Great Uncle George could do it, then so can I.
Who has influenced the pursuit of your dreams? And Why?