'Why is he like this?' Christine wails. 'Remember what he's been through,' says Martha in heavy loaded tones to excuse him. Every war is different, but all wars have casualties. This is a story about a family of damaged survivors, their ongoing inner turmoil, their battles with each other, and their strategies for escape. During the Second World War, Jack is a prisoner on the Changi railway before being shipwrecked on his way to the saltmines. After clinging to wreckage in the shark-infested ocean watching his companions die, he returns home to peace-time. However, although he has survived the war, he has been so shaped and changed by it that not only Martha, his long-suffering wife, but each of their six children are forced to develop survival strategies to cope with him. Jill discovers hers in being top of her class; Johnnie finds refuge in sleep; May designs elegant dresses and dreams of wearing them; the twins have each other; and Christine finds comfort in the wild stallion her imagination has awarded her and Jack's stories of war and heroism. As the world changes and his children start growing up, Jack is left increasingly bewildered and angry.
Women's Rights organisations are bad enough, but when Jill joins the anti-Vietnam War movement it feels like the ultimate betrayal. Drastic measures must be taken and nothing will ever be the same again. Patricia Cornelius's evocative debut novel is set in Melbourne between WW2 and the Vietnam War.