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.
©1998 Bryce Courtenay; (P)2001 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
Bryce Courtenay was unknown to me until my niece told me about his "Power of One". Jessica is his 4th book I've read (listened to) and was just as richly detailed and filled with characters unique and complicated as previous reads. Jessica's story takes you out of contemporary times and sets you down in the middle of 1914 Australian bush country. The detail of the landscape and Jessica's spirit and drive will be with you long after you finish. For me Jessica is one of those books that are hard to follow - once you finish it and want to begin other books they pale in comparison. Other Bryce Courtenay books I loved and would put in my top 10 best loved/most enjoyed are "The Power of One" and "Tandia." Review written by Robert's wife Denise
Bryce Courtenay describes in vivid color the life of Jessica. She has many experiences that will make you cry and others laugh or smile.
Story opens circa 1914. Jessica lives with her evil and manipulative mom and older sis and loving dad. Their home is in the Bush country of Australia.
I ways celebrate a new Bryce Courtenay novel. And Humphrey Bower, in my opinion, is the very best narrator. Each character has a distinctive voice. And that makes the novel that much better.
This novel is very hard to put down and will haunt me for a very long time. Definitely will listen again.
I have read or I should say listened to most of Bryce Courtenay's novels - the last three in sequence of reading were "Four Fires", "Whitethorn" and most recently "Jessica". Courtenay's books are powerful, stimulating and at times quite funny. In "Whitethorn" and to a lesser extent, "Four Fires", good triumphs over evil. Not so in Jessica; evil prevails. "Jessica" rates up there with Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'urbervilles", but Hardy's heroine never encounters the depth of human depravity and corruption so endured by Jessica. Courtenay attacks racism head on, sometimes with ridicule, sometimes with humor and always vividly exposing the cruelity and inhumanity of the state departments, in this case, Education and Aboriginal Affairs. The Church also does not escape the biting criticism of the author's pen.
At the risk of being too negative, I point out that there is a strong bond created between Jessica and the aborginal, Mary, a bond that endures a lifetime. The two lawyers, one who is a drunkard and the other a young idealistic communist, are both endearing, intelligent and principled.
One other reviewer who did not have much good to say about "Jessica" claimed that the ending was "silly". I don't think so. Life happens sometimes that way.
One final note: what else can be said about Humphrey Bower. He is utterly amazing, so many characters brought to life by Mr. Bower.
My best friend, an Australian, recommended this book to me. I started listening to it and couldn't stop. It is an extraordinarly compelling book, and Jessica is a character I will never forget. She lived her life strictly according to her standards, and she never deviated. I have no idea how a man could possibly write about such an extraordinary female character. It is the first book I have read by Bryce Courtenay, and I cannot wait to read the rest of his works. This is a book that I am certain I will listen to many times in the future. I highly recommend this book. The narrator, Humphrey Bower, is absolutely marvelous, and I will attempt to listen to all the books he has narrated. A job exceptionally well done!
How can a nice guy like Bryce imagine such evil characters & deeds? One of his his best (although, hardly uplifting)!
A story of deep sadness, the love of friendships, the bravery of a girl who was not afraid to stand up to the world for what was right and decent. This world could use more like her indeed.
Everytime I finish a Courtenay novel, I swear to a new favorite book in my top 5 list. Until the next on, this one is definately in that list.
Humphrey Bower as always, brings the charactors to life and thru my ears into my heart.
I love Bryce Courtenay as an author and the prose of this book is often very beautiful and vivid, as I've come to expect from him. The narrator is also excellent, keeping the various voices and accents consistent and reading with feeling. So why three stars? I just didn't enjoy the story very much. [Warning: Minor spoilers.] The heroine of the book is a strong, likable woman. As the story moves forward, one bad event after another befalls her. I really wanted her to catch a break at some point, but for the most part the story starts out depressing and stays sad all the way through. I've heard conflicting reports of whether it's based on a true story or not. Either way it's a remarkable tale of human perseverance in a harsh world. I am not one of those people who needs every story to end happily with the bad guys brought to justice and the good guys rich and content, but there is very little happiness in this book from start to finish. If you don't mind that kind of thing, it's a well-written and narrated book, but ultimately it just kind of bummed me out. Incidentally, if you stumbled across this book without first reading The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, I would HIGHLY recommend you go read that one instead.
I am grading on a curve. I have come to expect a five star book from Courtenay and while this book is worth the download and listen, it's not as strong as his other work. The narrative arc gets lost in the last third of the book and he gets heavy handed in his advocacy for the aboriginal peoples of Australia. It's a fine cause and would have worked in the larger theme of "seeking justice for the most vulnerable" if only Courtenay hadn't gotten bogged down in writing what reads like a court transcript.
... and while I am picking nits, as much as I love Humphrey Bower's narration of other Courtenay books, this project would have been better served by a female voice, as all the main characters are women and the emotional plot line centers on women's sensibilities.
If all that makes you want to pass on this one -- don't. Bryce Courtenay's worst book is better than many authors' best.
Loved this book, there are no words to describe the journey of Jessica and how each chapter grew richer and I wanted to listen to every word and dreaded the end of the book. I laughed, cried, mourned and deeply felt the story in my heart. Humphrey and Bryce are masters and a winning combination! You won't regret it!
This is a very inspiring story. Jessica was a little woman with a big heart. Although her evil mother and sister had stolen the most previous in her life, she kept her journey by helping the others and won their friendship, admiration and respect.
I couldn't stop listening to this great story delivered by an outstanding narrator. I stayed up late and my ears hurt by listening for continuous long time.
A great story that again teaches you some things about a time and place that you didnt know before. The characters are as always, well defined and you can relate to all of them. Its a gripping tale and you feel yourself becoming wrapped in the story and cant wait till you can continue with it. Often when I have read books by the same author, they can become too similar or just arent as good as the were, but Bryce Courtenay has so far never failed to grab my attention and keep it.
I am completely addicted to Bryce Courtenay's books. I read Jessica after several others and was not sure what to expect. In fact, it is brilliant. A real insight into the lives and times of the Australian outback and the prejudices meeted out to the native Aboriginals and poor immigrant whites. A fascinating, moving and thought enthalling book. I can't get enough of Bryce Courtenay but I will keep away from those snakes!
"A wonderful tale"
First things first,the narrator, Humphrey Bower, is the most talented storyteller I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.
Secondly, this is without a doubt one of the most powerful and moving stories I've ever heard. Utterly compelling.
In my book Courtenay and Bower are a genius combination.
I have enjoyed all of Bryce Courtenay books that I have read but this is the best so far. Not only a fascinating story about Jessica but all the factual details about life as an Aborigine was also most educational. Didn't know the half of it!
I am so glad I have found the writings of Bryce Courtenay. I initially listened to the Power of One and found that emotive and powerful. Jessica has a similar style but totally different path and both words and narration build a world in which you become absorbed. Injustice is at the forefront of the story, as it turns out a common thread in Mr Courtenay's writing, but the characters never take time to feel sorry for themselves and get on with their lives the best that they can. The stories are therefore full of hope aswell as sadness and, often, outrage! I am not quick to shed a tear but this book left me dewy eyed and with the feeling that I had completed quite a journey through history and human experience. Highly recommended.
"Man's inhumanity to man"
This is such a sad story about an incredibly strong woman. How can we be so cruel to each other? I would have given the story five as it is so well written but it left me so drained that I couldn't. This is not a book for the feeble. Just as we see Jessica free to make a life for herself she takes on the hypocrisy of the Australian actions against the Aborigines. Whilst such a good story and the devil is in the detail there were times when i felt that I had a devil of a time just plowing through the detail.
Whilst I'm glad I got through it I wish I had read it from a position of complete emotional strength.
"Good Aussie back country story"
Loved the character, however it did get all a bit beyond belief when Jessica's parents undertake murder and deception that leads to their own daughter's down fall. However it made a great story. Tear jerky in places, with several additional characters that added lots of interest, did't want it to end.
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