Rod Jones’s new novel, The Mothers, works on a number of levels. It provides a social and familial history of life in Melbourne’s working-class suburbs throughout the twentieth century while also telling the often moving stories of individuals connected across generations, usually mothers and children, battling to survive in adverse circumstances.
The novel gives us a rich panoply of characters, places, and issues. The overall effect is rather like that of looking through a box of faded photographs, turning each one in the light, hearing something of their story, bringing lost faces and eras to life. Narrated throughout in a focalising, third-person voice, The Mothers moves between this kind of historical distancing and the light touches of the novelist, working with imagery and nuance to give us insight into these disparate lives.