Nine Days by Toni Jordan: The Basics

This Resource is for students in Year 12 studying ‘Nine Days’ in AOS1: Unit 3, Reading & Creating Texts, Analytical Text Response, in the Victorian VCE 2023 Mainstream English Curriculum

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Written by a contemporary Australian female writer, Toni Jordan’s 2012 novel Nine Days is a celebration of family life in inner city Richmond in Melbourne from 1938 to 2006.  There are nine different narrators who give their insights into nine days over a time span of more than sixty years that includes stories about four generations of one major family (the Westaways).

Topics raised by the novel, include the impact in Australia of the Second World War; suburban life of the time; housing in Richmond during the mid-twentieth century; aspects of social class, religious sectarianism (Catholic–Protestant) antagonism; social customs, norms and attitudes, particularly as these affect women; views about unmarried mothers and babies born out of wedlock; and the industrial nature of Richmond.

At the heart of the narrative is the love story between Jack Husting and Connie Westaway, some details of which are kept secret until the last chapter.  This non-chronological structure of the narrative drives readers to keep going, mimicking life in that it does not always make sense until we look back over it and get the full picture.  Like life too, there is both joy and grief and the ways that characters learn to cope and adapt to changed circumstances.

Structure of the Text

The structure of the novel is not in chronological order, so readers must use the details to piece together the connections.  The novel focuses on nine particular days, mainly around World War II, and has nine different narrators.  The dates of the chapters and narrators are as follows:

Chapter One: Monday 7th August, 1939 = Kip Westaway

Chapter Two: Tuesday 25th September, 2001 = Stanzi Westaway

Chapter Three: Sunday 25th February, 1940 = Jack Husting

Chapter Four: Wednesday 1st August, 1990 = Charlotte Westaway

Chapter Five: Monday 2nd May, 1938 = Francis Westaway

Chapter Six: Saturday 9th November, 1946 = Annabel Crouch

Chapter Seven: Tuesday 14th January, 1941 = Jean Westaway

Chapter Eight: Thursday 27th April, 2006 = Alec Westaway

Chapter Nine: Wednesday 14th August, 1940 = Connie Westaway

Perspective of the Text from the Characters

The novel certainly values the strength of character shown in each generation as characters face the challenges of their time and place, and as they strive to improve their circumstances, and it does this with a light humour.  Familial love is explicitly valued, as is romantic love, although both are represented in different ways by the very different characters involved.  Jean, the mother of Connie, Francis and Kip, shows her love in ways that may be seen as bitter and harsh by the modern reader, but she is fiercely devoted to her aspirations for her family.  Kip represents an ideal form of domestic masculinity, romantically devoted to his wife Annabel for over fifty years, and a loving father to their twin daughters, Charlotte and Stanzi.  The two women of the third generation, idiosyncratic in their differences, ultimately form a very contemporary family, with two mothers (albeit non-gay) for Alec and Libby, who have two different fathers.  Thus, Jordan implicitly values contemporary attitudes about family, sexuality and gender.

Romantic Love

Romantic love is perhaps most poignantly portrayed in the story of Connie and Jack, but with a shocking end.  When Connie is left, after Jack’s departure, with an unplanned pregnancy, no opportunity to get married, and a mother who herself is already familiar with the (illegal) process of procuring an abortion, the novel’s values seem clear.  Its portrayal of Connie bleeding to death on a pavement, and of her brother Kip’s opinions about the importance of contraception, leave us in little doubt that the author values reproductive choice for women, whereas the Catholic Church frowns on contraception, and the State criminalises abortion, both with serious consequences for women.  On the other hand, Charlotte, in the next generation, is free to make the decision not to have an abortion.


Family and Belonging = Nine Days explores the connections within families, changes over time in what constitutes a family, and our ties to each other.  Through the focus on four different generations of the Westaway family, readers are shown connections over time.  Families are celebrated and valued.

Relationships = The novel highlights family loyalty and obligation, and also shows readers the impact of love, celebrating both young romantic love and the deep attachment of life-long love.  This is particularly seen through the characters of Kip and Annabel, as well as Connie and Jack Husting.

Dealing with Adversity = The novel explores how different characters in different decades struggle with adversity, and how they cope with loss, grief, poverty or loneliness.

Life during WW11 = The novel gives readers insight into the impact of the Second World War on the Melbourne population.

Social Attitudes & Norms Affecting Women = The novel follows the lives of female characters in different eras, and in doing so explores social attitudes and norms affecting women.  Women’s work in both the domestic and public spheres is shown.  Perhaps the most confronting issues the novel explores are about birth control and abortion.  Other challenges faced by the women in the novel include the weight and self-image issues that Stanzi has.

Social Class, Religious Sectarianism & Status = Ada Husting, Jack’s mother, views their family as further up the social ladder than their neighbours, the Westaways.  The Hustings are Protestant business owners, whereas the Westaways are Roman Catholic wage-earners.  The sectarian divisions of the time are also reflected in Jean’s narrative.

Living For the Day = The novel celebrates the notion of living for the day and fully engaging with the people around you.  Because of Kip’s early losses, he develops a kind of life philosophy which he attempts to instil in his daughters.  He immerses himself fully in everyone and everything around him.

Language and Style

Narrative Voice = Because each chapter is narrated by a different character, each has an individual narrative voice that both reflects the character and includes references to the time in which they live. This kind of interior monologue allows us to see the world through the eyes of the narrator, while the dialogue gives us insight into other characters as well.

Humour = A distinctive feature throughout the text, humour is conveyed in both the dialogue and the interior voice of some characters.  The narrative voices of Kip, Alec, Charlotte and Stanzi are particularly light-hearted and humorous.


The structure of the novel is held together by several symbols which run through the episodes.  These act as integrating devices and help the reader to recognise family connections, as well as each having an underlying significance.

The Photograph of Connie & Jack = The existence of the photograph is not known till late in the novel that provides a climax to Kip’s narration.  The photo shows the passion between Connie & Jack that never had a chance to flourish but also represents other sweethearts who were separated by war.  It adds to Connie’s sad story that ends in her death through an illegal abortion.

The Shilling = The lucky shilling connects the novel’s different episodes. It is given initially to Kip by Mr Husting, who likes and feels sorry for the cheeky young boy who tends his horse.  He swears Kip to secrecy, knowing his wife would not approve.  From Stanzi in the next chapter, we learn that it is one of her father’s ‘most prized possessions’.

The Amethyst Necklace = Another integrating device is the necklace, which is introduced to readers as a positive symbol in Charlotte’s chapter.  She describes it as ‘my mother’s pendant’ and recounts how she received it for her eighteenth birthday.  In this chapter she uses it for the so-called pendant test, which, according to superstition, indicates a baby’s gender.  But for Charlotte it has a wider significance: she views the pendant as a link to the life of her family and their love.

All Resources created by Online Tutoring using Zoom for Mainstream English Students in the Victorian Curriculum

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