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My Brother Jack

(My Brother Jack #1)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,232 ratings  ·  106 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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Bec only letting your teen read 'clean' books will give them a skewed sense of the world. people swear, get naked & have sex, & do not nice things to each…moreonly letting your teen read 'clean' books will give them a skewed sense of the world. people swear, get naked & have sex, & do not nice things to each other & animals. having these topics sensitively dealt with by literature could open the way to honest conversations between the two of you. do you police all of their youtube & netflix screen time? that would be a better use of your time than making sure nothing bad got to your child through the pages of a book. (less)

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Average rating 3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,232 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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C.S. Boag
Jul 14, 2014 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
Sharon Metcalf
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, owned
3.5 stars
It was only after I finished reading My Brother Jack by George Johnston that I discovered it had been the winner of the 1964 Miles Franklin award. To win, novels must be of the highest literary merit and present Australian life in any of its phases There is no question in my mind that this was a thoroughly deserving winner. The writing was exceptional and I have a whole new understanding of what it was like in Melbourne, Australia during the 1920's, 30's and 40's.

This very character dr
David Owen
Dec 27, 2011 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.
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
Jul 10, 2012 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. ...more
Banafsheh Serov
Oct 13, 2010 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.

Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m not actually sure where to start in documenting my thoughts and feelings about My Brother Jack. This book has been on my list for a while now - it was one of those high school required readings here in Australia, although somehow I was always in the other class where we read something else so I missed out. Probably not a bad thing because the book would have been wasted on my 15 year old self. My 52 year old self has been significantly impacted by it however, and I am left quite unsettled an ...more
Jun 11, 2016 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
Nov 17, 2010 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 be ...more
Leslie Crawley
May 04, 2016 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. ...more
Oct 09, 2011 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.
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.
Tracy Smyth
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I did like this book but thought it an odd title as Jack wasn’t in it much
K.D. Absolutely
May 05, 2011 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
Anthony Irven
Dec 31, 2013 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
Nov 17, 2012 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
Aug 06, 2016 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 pubic for the public". Jus
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club, wwii
Considered a classic "coming of age" story in Australia, I started this book with great expectations. Considering I couldn't easily get it in the US, and my daughter ultimately brought it back in a suitcase with her from Sydney, I was hopeful it was going to be an amazing and life changing read! These expectations were absolutely met in the first, I would say, half of the book. Powerful, vivid imagery, character development, storytelling and writing. In some parts laugh out loud funny, and in ot ...more
David Mitchell
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was a great loss that I was saved from reading this book as part of the school curriculum. Why didn't anyone ever tell me about this classic? The language is lyrical and the picture colorful. The reader is taken back in time and put into the docks and streets of Melbourne.

A blog post stemmed from reading this book. This post celebrates the fading art of long sentences:
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A worthy book. Even an enjoyable book, if your reading brings descriptive text to life.
The book is chapters and chapters describing a situation or milieu beautifully, interspersed with abrupt little pieces of plot, shifting the description to something new. But the descriptions truly are a delight of craftsmanship. And also the descriptions of characters and organizations.
Eventually, there is plot and a harsh resolution.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this when I was 15 (it was a Year 11 set text). I wasn't at all ready for it so hated it. Having just read it at 49 I have a much greater appreciation for the issues and the descriptions of life in Australia in the early part of the 20th century. I can also now accept the treatment of women as objects as (nearly) being in the past. I was really uncomfortable with this 34 years ago. ...more
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Captures the longing for meaning, purpose and fulfilment among the mundane disappointment of everything that fails to give you that joy you hoped you would find in your exploits. Depressing, yet touches a deep nerve and if you let it awakens you to search beyond of the places you (and the author) have already failed to find what you have always hoped for...
Helen Hepworth
Aug 30, 2012 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.
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 for me, probably. It was a compelling read and flew through it pretty quickly. But David Meredith (and, to an extent, George Johnston) is a miserable human being and the "ironic" self-loathing never quite makes up for the blatant misogyny and racism in the book. ...more
Kenneth Vickery
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a classic for Australians and anyone who has a brother.
Angus Holmes
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
All Aussie classic that has timeless values about progressing through life & how we change our thinking & values due to our environment. I read it twice first time at secondary school.
Steve Egger
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, 2020
Beautifully written. Such a descriptive portrait of Australian life between the wars.
Oct 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prior to reading Charmian Clift's Mermaid Singing & Peel Me a Lotus I recognised My Brother Jack first as an Australian television series starring Jack Thompson, and second as the source novel for the adaptation.

Clift's memoirs inspired me to learn more about her partner George. I discovered Clean Straw for Nothing: Johnston's own account of their life as literary expatriates, in the form of a semi-fictional autobiography. Clift ended her life on the eve of its publication.

It made sense to read
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked this book up at a Lifeline Book Fair because I have a brother named Jack so I had to get it.
I liked the description. It painted a really clear picture of a seemingly 'normal' suburban family in Australia in the period of WWI through to WWII. This isn't something I have read much about but I felt quite connected to the place and what was going on. I though the narrator was an interesting character. At the beginning of the book I really felt for him and his attempts at figuring out who he
Bec D
This was a set text for English at school. I never finished it. While I enjoyed it this time I still don’t think I would have enjoyed it then. Johnston is obviously an accomplished writer. He crafts beautiful sentences, full of observation. In the first half of the book this style really bogs down the book as it seems he wants to describe every aspect in great detail. The book improves in the second half when the story gets more interesting because it explores the fraught and fragile nature of D ...more
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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.

Other books in the series

My Brother Jack (2 books)
  • Clean Straw for Nothing

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