'In the remote outback of Western Australia during World War II, English anthropologist Nicholas Keene and his wife, Stella, raise a lonely child, Perdita. Her upbringing is far from ordinary: in a shack in the wilderness, with a distant father burying himself in books and an unstable mother whose knowledge of Shakespeare forms the backbone of the girl's limited education.
'Emotionally adrift, Perdita becomes friends with a deaf and mute boy, Billy, and an Aboriginal girl, Mary. Perdita and Mary come to call one another sister and to share a very special bond. They are content with life in this remote corner of the globe, until a terrible event lays waste to their lives.' (Publisher's blurb)
Writing Disability in Australia:
|Type of disability||Deafness and mutism.|
|Type of character||Secondary.|
|Point of view||First person.|
'From at least the early 1990s, when the Hawke Labor Government introduced reconciliation legislation into the Australian parliament, the concept of reconciliation has attracted criticism from both the political left and right. While some have complained of it as a predominantly white undertaking, others have seen it as a threat to the unity of the Australian nation-state. Following the election of John Howard in 1996, reconciliation met fierce resistance from the Federal Government itself, with Howard rejecting the recommendations of the 1997 Bringing Them Home report and refusing to apologise to Indigenous Australians for their ongoing sufferings at the hands of British colonialism. This is the political climate that provides the backdrop for the five novels, all written between 2002 and 2007, which Liliana Zavaglia examines in White Apology and Apologia: Australian Novels of Reconciliation (2016). In her book, Zavaglia deliberately chooses to focus exclusively on works by Anglo-Australian writers to examine how whiteness operates in contemporary Australia. Though she conceives of her primary texts as characteristic of a liberal whiteness that ‘worked to counter [the] political attempts [by the Liberal government] to silence the Indigenous rights and reconciliation movements’ (1), she argues that they, at the same time, articulate the ‘double movement of apology and apologia’ (3) typical of whiteness in Australia. Etymologically, ‘apology’ and ‘apologia’ are cognates of the Greek and Latin apologia, respectively. Despite their common roots, however, they differ significantly in terms of meaning, for while the first implies remorse, the latter, a later borrowing of the Latin form, indicates defence and justification. By identifying moments of both apology and apologia, Zavaglia suggests, the novels she discusses reveal the ‘discourse of liberal postcolonial whiteness [to be] a riven and conflicted site, driven in a hopeful quest to heal its relations with the other, even as its normative traces continue in the legacy bequeathed to it by its colonial foundations’ (21). What then follows is an elaborate investigation of this divided and disrupted nature of Australian whiteness, as it manifests itself in contemporary Anglo-Australian fiction.' (Publication abstract)
'Gail Jones’ Sorry has since its publication been greeted with critical controversies. The novel has been read by some as a national allegory and a grand public narrative. This essay argues that Sorry attempts to tell a small story or a "petit récit". As a "petit récit", Sorry constructs a narrative( 1) about the fear of a white female child,( 2) that embodies a compromised counterdiscourse,and( 3) that uses a literary device that Jones calls "poetic indirection". As a postmodern novel,Sorry offers a kind of communication based on an understanding of and care for the other.'
'The turn of the century has witnessed a proliferation of the publication of the so-called “sorry novels”, “fictions of reconciliation” and “saying sorry texts” in the Australian literary context. In contrast to the arguments which define these texts as plausible examples of “settler envy”, this article highlights their dissenting and reconciling power in Gail Jones’s Sorry by offering an in-depth analysis and discussion of the meaning and function of the intertextual allusions to Shakespeare’s Othello and the use of symbols in the novel.' (Introduction)
'Norman Saadi Nikro’s essay, ‘Paractatic Stammers: Temporality in the Novels of Gail Jones,’ sets out to explore how Jones’ ‘sense of fascination and wonder with the technology and culture of modernism informs the phenomenology and tenor of her novelistic style, especially the characters that emerge through the wave lengths of this style.’ Addressing himself to Jones’ literary fiction published to date, Nikro seeks to ‘track the duration in her novels whereby memory, history and story are experienced by her characters as something like intersections, intervals nor spacings, taut and tense folds or pleats in which time is riven by “a strange accession to memory and speech,” as the character Perdita comes to learn in Jones’s Sorry (202).’ Drawing in part on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and on Gilles Deleuze’s ‘engagement with the work of Bergson,’ Nikro examines in Jones the ‘relational contiguity of parts whose variable movements and orientations to one another bring about a transfiguration of their subjective capacities (as in Perdita’s realisation of her stuttering as a relational dynamic).’ ‘Paractatic Stammers: Temporality in the Novels of Gail Jones,’ offers a rich and original reading of Jones’ fiction, both sympathetic and critically rigorous. Echoing Jones’ own views on modernity, Nikro traces in her novels a poetics of modernity that inflects both the writing and the thematics of the work. ‘Jones’s prose style,’ he suggests, ‘what she calls “a kind of prose poetics’” (Royo Grasa 1), calls attention to the gaps and intervals by which the temporality of narration is not only possible, but rendered a vacant site for the stammer of an interruptive image or voice encompassing an alternative engagement of time and its graphic imprints.’ Like Kirkpatrick, Nikro too highlights the forceful way in which an Australian author develops a distinct narrative voice, in the case of Jones one informed by a constant intertwining of local and global aesthetic and political sensibilities.' (Editor's introduction)