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My Brother Jack (My Brother Jack #1)

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  1,496 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Through the story of two brothers who grew up in patriotic, suburban Melbourne, George Johnston created an enduring exploration of two Australian myths - that of the man who loses his soul as he gains worldly success, and that of the tough, honest, Aussie battler.
Mass Market Paperback, 348 pages
Published 1967 by William Collins and Son (first published 1964)
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Community Reviews

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C.S. Boag
Aug 21, 2014 C.S. Boag rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, australian
This is part of my life, this book. I read it years ago when I was a reporter on The Sydney Morning Herald.
George Johnstone and Charmian Clift were everybody's dream - ran away for love and lived on a Greek island. Their children were allowed to run wild. My Brother jack was the first book in a trilogy that was to define their dream.
Only it wasn't a dream, of course but a nightmare. This was the 1960's and Charmian Clift was writing a beautiful column for The Herald. The love affair had come a
Ben Eldridge
Feb 12, 2014 Ben Eldridge rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm left with decidedly mixed feelings about My Brother Jack - winner of the 1964 Miles Franklin Award, and heralded as an Australian classic. There are some exceptionally vivid and evocative reminiscences of post-WWI Melbourne suburbia, but it suffers from the semi-autobiographical nature of its approach - making sweeping assertions about national characteristics from a very particular point of view. The main character, David Meredith, is overwhelmingly defined by a judgemental passivity that m ...more
Jul 21, 2012 Jane rated it it was amazing
My Australian friends had recommended this, after taking me to visit the last house in which the author lived. Very enjoyable reading another country's coming-of-age classic, full of wonderful descriptions of 1920-45. Looking at other reviews here, it's another case of a book that high schoolers probably aren't ready for (seems it shows up on year 12 reading lists) but that older fans of literature will savor.
David Owen
Dec 27, 2011 David Owen rated it liked it
I hated this book when I read it in high school but several years later when I read it at Uni I absolutely loved it.

There's something to be said for reading a book at just the right time for it to have maximum impact.
Jun 19, 2016 N. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Brother Jack is an Australian classic and that's the reason I bought it (so long ago that I can't remember when) but the cover is deceptive. The two men in uniform gave me the impression the book was going to focus on WWII. In fact, neither of the brothers in My Brother Jack fights in WWII. The story is really a semi-autobiographical novel about two brothers who are vastly different yet each other's strongest supporters over the years. It's told from the perspective of David, a writer, and th ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian, fiction, ww2
“Suburbia’s most culpable quality, to many Australian writers, is its antagonism to art and to artistic production,” writes Robin Gerster. I would tend to agree. Suburbia is no friend to the writer, not only in the supposed lack of inspiration it provides, but also in its disapproval of the profession, of the act of being a writer/intellectual/academic.

This remark calls to mind the episode in My Brother Jack, where David first brings home the typewriter: “I told you the sly young devil was scri
Oct 09, 2011 Tracey rated it really liked it
I read this book years ago and some of the imagery remains with me. Especially the part when as a young boy he thought all adult males were meant to have a limb missing. This was because all the men he knew had returned injured from the war.
This is a great Australian novel.
Anthony Irven
Jan 11, 2014 Anthony Irven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I have ever read! Which is strange as I was given this book as a gift three years ago and kept avoiding it as I thought it would be slow and stodgy, but how wrong I was.
I think George Johnston has fashioned the great Australian novel and younger writers will either have to give up that as an aim of just write books to the best of their ability.
This book mirrors my father and mothers lifetimes and covers the same momentous periods of turbulence and turmoil. It would be inter
Banafsheh Serov
Oct 25, 2010 Banafsheh Serov rated it liked it
Shelves: bookgroup
An Australian classic, My Brother Jack is the story of Davy and Jack Meredith, two brothers growing up in a Melbourne suburb during the years between the First and Second World War.
Born to a drunken, abusive father and a caring, loving mother, the boys are distinctively different from an early age. While the older brother Jack is a tough fighter, who drinks, swears and wenches, the younger brother Davy lives a quiet existence under the shadow of his brother, preferring the company of books.

Nov 19, 2012 Michael rated it it was ok
The story of how I came across this book is simple. In my year 10 english class the teacher wanted us to read a book by an Australian author set in Australia and identify the Australian culture. I was told the plot synopsis to this. It sounded interesting but as a whole this could have been a lot better.

For starters there is no real narrative flow. George Johnston wrote with phrases like "until this day, I do not know if we really did plan an engagement", "I remember back to..." It got REALLY an
Jan 22, 2012 Kinga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The book chronicles the lives of two brothers: Jack and David as the grow up in Australia. Their parents both left the brothers and their two daughters to serve in the army and the nurses' corps during World War I. We get the story mainly from David's point of view as he grows up in a house full of violence and discord, he admires his brother Jack. It is a fascinating look at how the lives of both brothers take different paths. It is also an interesting look at life in Australia in the period ...more
Leslie Crawley
May 19, 2016 Leslie Crawley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A fantastic description of suburban Australia between the wars. Also surprising the relevance that parts of the novel had to today's society. Very visual with George Johnston using words to paint a 3D image in brilliant colour that evoked a real sense of the times. Recommended for anyone interested in between wars/great depression/Australian literature.
Helen Hepworth
Aug 30, 2012 Helen Hepworth rated it it was amazing
I read this years ago and really loved it- I was discussing Australian literature with someone who lives in Perth and she hadn't heard of it so I don't know how widely read it is over here. Anyway - it's a poignant ' coming of age' story - interesting and intelligent.
Kate Rowe
I absolutely love My Brother Jack and have read it every few years since first reading it in highschool, each time I read it I love it even more.
Nov 13, 2016 Louise rated it it was amazing
One of my ten favourite books, which I reread every year or so. Honestly Australian in style and substance, tells the story of two brothers living in an Australian period of poverty and hopelessness.
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 02, 2016 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Lisa
Lisa, my Goodreads friend in Australia, gave me this book in 2011. We exchanged books that we thought were good to introduce ourselves with the literary works of each country. I shipped to her Dr. Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) (3 stars) and she rated it with 4 stars. This book, My Brother Jack from her, she rated with 5 stars and I agree with her. I am giving this a 5 too.

It is a wonderful read. The easy language makes the reading so light. The first third of the book is the best p
Apr 16, 2016 Carolyn rated it really liked it
This Australian classic published in 1964 is worth reading for the vivid picture it paints of Australia in the 1920 and 30s between the wars and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.

It is the story of David Meredith, a shy quiet, unathletic boy and his brother Jack, the quintessential robust, knock-about Aussie bloke growing up in middle Australia during the depression. Their household however was unusual in that their mother, a nurse, had filled the house with wounded soldiers with nowh
Sep 08, 2016 GLF rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading "My Brother Jack" some 40 years ago. In my youth it was a different book to the one I have just finished reading. Then it was full of "optimism" and discovery, but when I read it now it paints a rather oppressive picture of Australia between the wars. How social values have changed over the years!

My recollection of "My Brother Jack" was that it was rather light, fluffy and feel good. My goodness it had "S-E-X" in it and a 'liberated' catch cry - "The public for the public". Ju
D.A. Cairns
Dec 28, 2013 D.A. Cairns rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me by my 92 year old grandmother with whom I share a love of Australian historical fiction. My Brother Jack is a story spanning decades of the protagonist's life from childhood through to his work as a war correspondent during the Second World War. It is written in first person and reads like an autobiography.

Incredibly detailed descriptive passages, a vast array of superbly chosen and executed adjectives (you'll need a dictionary to understand it all), and well draw
Jul 18, 2016 Hollyriver22171 rated it liked it
So I was reading this for school and to be perfectly honest, I wasn't going into it with a positive mindset. I so rarely find any enjoyment in my school books, picking them apart tends to just kind of ruin the experience, however the books are never that good to begin with and generally aren't to my tastes. Whilst I didn't think this was five star worthy or anything, I liked it a lot more than I was expecting. Also, as I live in Melbourne I found particular enjoyment just in recognising the ...more
A story that spans the period from WWI to the end of WWII. David Meredith's parents both go off to WWI and on their return he experiences a world of broken men. His father becomes erratic and violent as he wonders what all the sacrifices during WWI were for.

David is envious of his brother Jack. Jack is outgoing, confident, charming to women, strong and masculine. David is introverted and finds comfort in reading. He finds pleasure in writing then gets a job as a journalist. By war's end he is a
Anne Vesco
Jul 07, 2016 Anne Vesco rated it it was amazing
My Brother Jack is a truly excellent book that centres around David Meredith, his familial relationships and his journey to self-realisation. Much of the novel is an exploration of individual identities and the stereotypical identities of parts of Australian society. I found myself immersed in My Brother Jack not only because of its fascinating portrayal of life between World War 1 and World War 2, but also the rich imagery of life in the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's. Additionally, it was ...more
Kelly Dunagan
Jun 16, 2015 Kelly Dunagan rated it it was amazing
This one is a slow starter, but if you can get past the somewhat tedious childhood era, it just gets better and better. It is heartbreaking without being sentimental, and cynical without being heartless. It is a beautiful, deftly-executed, and subtly-wrought work and I think the reader who manages to stick it out through a few less-than-gripping opening chapters will be richly rewarded in the end.

There is a longer review of this book on my blog, Around the World in 2000 Books.
May 09, 2016 Leanne rated it really liked it
This is definitely an Australian classic. It is beautifully written & provides a brilliant insight into the psyche of the characters living in suburban Melbourne at that time. Narrated by bookish & shy David, it is the story of his coming of age & his relationship with his larrikin, extroverted, older brother, Jack. David’s recollections commence during the first World War when he was just a toddler & from there we follow the trials & tribulations of both brothers, together ...more
Ellen Miech
Jul 08, 2016 Ellen Miech rated it liked it
What I found striking about this book was its commentary on Australian life and society. I may not have lived during the time it was set, but its descriptions still resonated with me.

It is not a likable story in the usual sense... the protagonist is difficult to respect, the overall outlook is cynical. Despite this, it's explorations of the characters (namely, David and his brother) and its bluntly honest approach makes it a worthwhile read told from a unique perspective.

(I have yet to read the
My Brother Jack is a book that was always around when I was at school but for some reason my class never read it. I'm kinda glad about that because I think I would have hated it then. This book would be wasted on most school kids.

The story became bogged down in the middle, but I now realise it wasn't some much the story but the lives of the characters. I expected the story of Jack would be the main theme and I was surprised that this wasn't the case. Only at the end did I understand the signific
Jan 07, 2015 Chelsea rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Johnston's writing is quite a beautiful rendition of suburban Australia in the early-mid 20th Century. There is interesting complexity in his reflections on social mobility and the 'bourgeois' middle class. His protagonist Dave Meredith's conflicted feelings are quite touching, particularly when placed as a foil against his 'man's man' brother Jack, leading to a rather thought-provoking ending. This is the first of the trilogy and I am keen to read the others ...more
Feb 04, 2016 Johanne rated it really liked it
Miles Franklin Award Winner

An interesting study of inter war years in suburban Melbourne focusing on problems experienced by returned soldiers,the depression and eagerness of those wanting to contribute to the war effort whilst others are unwilling. David s character has had to deal with childhood adversity but he never truly knew what he wanted and allowed himself to be trapped in an unsatisfying world
Stephen Huntley
Jan 25, 2014 Stephen Huntley rated it it was ok
Another example of the worthy but uninspiring borefest forced on students in high school. Kids should be encouraged to read with books that are entertaining and fun to them, not what some dry and dreary education official deems will be in their best interest. Same for science and history. Make it fun and exciting and spark a life-long passion. The serious stuff should be left for those studying the subjects at uni.
Jan 11, 2012 Tien rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh, not impressed at all.

I think I was also deceived by the cover (though I should've known better!) that most of the stories would be military-like but it's not... Just life in the suburbs of Australia (mostly) and what that means to 2 boys growing up in a poor & dysfunctional family.

Of course, I kept thinking that it's about Jack but... it's NOT. All I read was me, me, me, Jack, me, me, me, Jack and so on. Jack was basically the standard for comparison. Bleargh, spare me.
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Crit. 1 21 Sep 05, 2008 09:37AM  
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George Henry Johnston was an Australia journalist, war correspondent and novelist. He published some thirty works, several of which were written in collaboration with his wife, the writer Charmian Clift.
More about George Johnston...

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