It’s to Martha, in her kitchen, that they come.
“How could you have married him?” Jill sneers.
“Why is he like this?” Christine wails.
“Remember what he’s been through,” says Martha in heavy, loaded tones.
Christine could kick herself. She forgives him instantly. “Of course, the war, that’s why he’s like he is.”
Sent far from home to fight in the Second World War, the young and haughty Jack Wheatly spends three and a half years as a prisoner of war in Burma. His only chance of escape comes when an American submarine torpedoes the Japanese ship carrying him and his fellow prisoners to the salt mines. After clinging to wreckage in a shark-infested ocean for six grueling days, he somehow survives and returns home to Australia.
But although Jack survives the war, he never recovers from it. And years later, his wife Martha and their six children find themselves in emotional peril as well, forced to bear the brunt of his abuse and alcoholism. While Martha attempts to cope by retreating into denial and domestic servitude, Jill, the oldest child, immerses herself in learning; Johnnie takes refuge in sleep; May seeks comfort in pretty clothes; the twins, Door and Mouse, lose themselves in each other; and Christine—the baby of the family—finds a kind of salvation in her vivid imagination.
My Sister Jill is a superbly spare and beautifully written first novel about a family of damaged survivors, each with his own battles to fight, but all of them casualties of war.