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Jessica - Bryce Courtenay

Paperback

Published: August 2006
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Published: 28th August 2006
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Jessica is based on the inspiring true story of a young girl's fight for justice against tremendous odds.

A tomboy, Jessica is the pride of her father, as they work together on the struggling family farm. One quiet day, the peace of the bush is devastated by a terrible murder. Only Jessica is able to save the killer from the lynch mob – but will justice prevail in the courts?

Nine months later, a baby is born . . . with Jessica determined to guard the secret of the father's identity. The rivalry of Jessica and her beautiful sister for the love of the same man will echo throughout their lives – until finally the truth must be told.

Set in the harsh Australian bush against the outbreak of World War I, this novel is heartbreaking in its innocence, and shattering in its brutality.

About the Author

Bryce Courtenay was born in South Africa and has lived in Sydney for the major part of his life. He is the bestselling author of The Power of One, April Fool's Day, The Potato Factory, Tommo & Hawk, Jessica, Smoky Joe's Cafe, Four Fires, Whitethorn and Brother Fish.

REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

by PowerReviews
Jessica
 
4.7

(based on 3 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (2)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (0)

100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Deserves multiple readings (3)
  • Well written (3)

Cons

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      4.0

      A piece of Australian history

      By The Gofer

      from Lakes Entrance AU

      About Me Everyday Reader

      Verified Buyer

      Pros

      • Deserves Multiple Readings
      • Well Written

      Cons

        Best Uses

        • Gift

        Comments about Jessica:

        "Jessica" should be required reading for secondary students

        Comment on this review

         
        5.0

        the best read

        By kb

        from qld

        About Me Casual Reader

        Verified Buyer

        Pros

        • Deserves Multiple Readings
        • Engaging Characters
        • Well Written

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Gift
          • Younger Readers

          Comments about Jessica:

          read this many years ago, and just had to get it as a present for a young avid reader. I hope she enjoys it as much as I did.

          Comment on this review

           
          5.0

          i would advise anybody to read this book

          By bookworm

          from qld

          About Me Bookworm

          Verified Buyer

          Pros

          • Deserves Multiple Readings
          • Engaging Characters
          • Page Turner
          • Suspenseful
          • Well Written

          Cons

            Best Uses

            • Older Readers

            Comments about Jessica:

            this book was very sad in places .it makes you thankful for your own mother. i would not have liked living with jessicas mum or sister

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            CHAPTER ONE

            Out in the south-west along the banks of the Murrumbidgee the snakes come out at sundown to dance. The mulga, gwardar and the Eastern brown, the clumsy death adder, black-headed python and the harmless carpet snake. They. sway and twist in streaks of twirling ribbon, loops of gunmetal grey and whips of bronze catching the late afternoon sun, reptilian lightning that sends puffs of grey dust into the baking air.

            This is country to make hard men whimper and bite their knuckles in their sleep. Old man saltbush tethers the black soil to an endless horizon. By sunrise the day is already grown hazy from the heat. Dark pre-Cambrian rock and mulga scrub tremble in an illusion of moisture. Men see for the most part through squinting eyes plagued by a constant vexation of black flies that suck the moisture from creased skin and feed on the salty sweat stains on their flannel shirts. It is a place where the heat is so severe birds lose their strength to fly and drop like stones from the breathless air.

            The women, their hips wide and slack from too many pregnancies, walk with a slow gait. It is as though their shadows contain the weight of their weariness, dark sacks dragging along the ground behind them. Their faces are hidden in the interior of deep bonnets, but it is their hands which first betray them, blunt, calloused fingers and broken nails, skin raw and puffy from the constant use of lye soap and slap of wet flannel against a corrugated washboard.

            This is a place to break your heart and leave no sentiment to alleviate a life of bitterness and struggle. Three hundred days a year a hard-faced sky mocks any hope of rain and every miserable dog's day dawn is much the same as the one before it. Monotony and stoicism are constant companions, imagination a bad habit to be quickly stamped out of young children so that they may be made useful and compliant. It is here where, at dusk, the snakes dance on the banks of the Murrumbidgee.

            Jessica waits quietly with a shotgun cradled in her arm, her green eyes intent on the scene before her. In the pocket of her pinny are three cartridges, their faded red cases having been used and re-filled half a dozen times with birdshot, and tamped with wadding and cordite with a little black powder added to save money. Joe has shown her how and Jessica can now do it in her sleep: head-wadding, charge, mid-wadding, birdshot, cap and wadding and crimping. The worn cardboard casings with their reseated copper crowns are filled so that the birdshot will effectively spray in a three-foot arc at a distance of twenty feet, well, sometimes, anyway.

            At first light when Jessica ventured out of the home­stead to the chookhouse she saw that six chicks had gone missing from under the black hen, all taken by snakes, their serpentine slicks plain to see in patches of yard dust leading to the chicken run.

            She'd vowed to get the bastards at sundown. Six of them for six chicks. Now, watching the dancing snakes, Jessica repeats her promise silently, 'Six of you mongrels are gunna pay tonight.' She knows she'd be safe cursing them out loud, warning them of the revenge that's coming to them. Snakes are deaf and can't see too well either, so they're not likely to hear you coming except for the vibrations you make as you walk. They can smell, though – with their trembling forked tongues they pick up tiny particles on the ground and transfer them to the roof of their mouths where they have their smelling organs. 'Like having your nose inside your mouth,' Joe says. Jessica doesn't know how he knows stuff like this, he's not a book reader and claims he's never had any proper learning. He can read all right when he's got a newspaper, but like lots of folk his lips move and sometimes you can hear him whispering, struggling with a word, trying to hear its sound, make sense of it.

            Jessica has taken care to stand downwind so the snakes won't smell her and cop her presence. When they've come together to dance like this, on the banks of the river, though, they don't seem to take the same notice of approaching danger.

            High up in the dark foliage of the river gums the cockatoos and galahs are carrying on a treat, while the cicadas, ready for nightfall, singe the air with their humming. It's all noise and mayhem at sunset, the bush doves kookarooing, crows cawing, grey herons calling out across the river and the kookas adding a good bit of laughing to the night anthem. Meanwhile, below the gum trees in the dust on the river bank the snakes are lost in silence.

            Jessica feels, rather than hears, the smooth metallic click as she breaks the twelve-bore, then reaches into the pocket of her pinny for a cartridge and punches the cardboard cylinder into the left-hand barrel, pushing it firmly home. It feels solid and reassuring, the flat metal detonation cap warm against the pad of her small thumb. She charges the second barrel and then snaps the shot­gun back into place, keeping her thumb well clear. Now she hears the well-oiled click as the breech closes back onto the stock. Two barrels, won't get away with just the one, she thinks, resenting the extra shot.

            Ideally Jessica wants one always ready up the spout in case of an emergency. What she's about to do is not good practice and she knows it. But she's only got one chance and is going to need both barrels if she wants six of the bastards. She can almost hear her father's voice: 'Snakes are risky bastards. Browns have a bad temper, come after you soon as sniff, follow you home, hunt you down. They strike high so the poison gets to yer heart sooner. Always keep one up the spout, girlie.

            'You're too bloody cocky with that shotgun,' Joe would say when she was ten years old and allowed to use the four-ten. 'One day you'll come undone, girlie. What then, hey?'

            The bite from a six-foot mulga can kill a child, paralyse it in twenty minutes, and a healthy-sized Eastern brown will do a grown man in good and proper if the poison has an hour to work its way up to the heart. Jessica is eighteen and a bit over five feet tall, with her best Sunday button-up boots adding a further inch if she's lucky. With her short fair hair, narrow hips and flat chest, she could pass for a small lad if it weren't for her pinny. Last time she went into Narrandera she weighed in at a hundred and two pounds on the chemist's scale. A bite from an Eastern brown and she's dead as a doorknob in less than an hour, no risk.

            But she's got pluck. 'If I can't take six of the buggers with two barrels, might as well give the game away,' she mutters.

            Jessica knows she shouldn't be down here by the river side. If Joe found out he'd be mad as hell. In his book there's enough trouble out there looking for you, without you going looking for it. Jessica has a third cartridge in her pocket but doubts she'll have time to use it if things go really crook. It doesn't occur to her to try for as many snakes as she can kill with one shot and keep one up the spout for an emergency. Six chicks, six snakes, an eye for an eye, that's how her stubborn mind works. 'Too stubborn for your own good,' Joe always says to her.

            Jessica is her father's girl, from her stockman's hat to the tips of her sturdy work boots. A small farm needs a boy and Joe being landed with two girls instead was a big disappointment. Joe brought up Jessica to be that son he'd never had. So it's Jessica's older sister, Meg, who takes the role of the girl — their mother, Hester, says Meg is a born lady.

            Jessica has always been different, though half of her difference came about because Joe needed someone to help around the place. The other half, her love of the land, her understanding of it, seems to have been born in her.

            That is how it was in the Bergman family, then. Hester and Meg indoors, baking, doing needlework, cooking, putting up preserves, churning butter, separating cream and collecting gossip. Jessica and Joe outdoors, doing all the things needed to keep a farm going.

            Joe, who knew nothing about bringing up girls anyway, left Meg to his wife and took Jessica under his wing. He didn't think about what it might mean to Jessica's future; all he knew was that the little brat was always hanging around his knees, clutching at his moleskins, wanting to know things. So he just let her get on with it.

            Jessica reckons she's as good on the property as any boy her age. Maybe, now she's eighteen, she can't run as fast as a young bloke, but she can shoot as straight, ride as well as any of the young jackaroos in a muster, slaughter and dress a beast, crutch a sheep, brand a calf, build or fix a fence or plough and sow a paddock with winter oats. She's a fair bushman, too. Since she was seven years old, Jessica has been Joe's right-hand man.

            This is fine by Jessica. Joe is a tough bastard but fair and you can't ask for much more than that if you love someone as much as Jessica loves Joe. Joe's not one to show his feelings, even to his daughter. Tough bugger, other blokes said so too.

            ISBN: 9780143004615
            ISBN-10: 0143004611
            Audience: General
            Format: Paperback
            Language: English
            Number Of Pages: 696
            Published: August 2006
            Dimensions (cm): 20.0 x 13.0  x 3.9
            Weight (kg): 0.51