'The thing I am trying to get at is what made Jack different from me. Different all through our lives, I mean, and in a special sense, t just older or bler or braver or less clever.' David and Jack Meredith grow up in a patriotic suburban Melbourne household during the First World War, and go on to lead lives that could t be more different. Through the story of the two brothers, George Johnston created an enduring exploration of two Australian myths: that of the man who loses his soul as he gains worldly success, and that of the tough, honest Aussie battler, whose greatest ambition is to serve his country during the war. Ackwledged as one of the true Australian classics, My Brother Jack is a deeply satisfying, complex and moving literary masterpiece.
George Johnson died in 1970, at the age of 59, after a long battle with tuberculosis. Clean Straw for Nothing, first published in 1969, and A Cartload of Clay, first published in 1971, completed his Meredith trilogy - the first book of which is the highly acclaimed My Brother Jack. Despite a lack of formal education, Johnston became a renowned journalist and one of Australia's foremost war correspondents. The latter saw him travel extensively throughout the war and included his presence on board the USS Missouri for the signing of the peace treaty. His marriage to the writer and essayist Charmian Clift not only lead to further travel and their experience of expatriate life in England and in Greece, but also to much romanticising of their lives together. In many respects this has distracted attention from their distinctive and respective writing achievements. Both My Brother Jack and Clean Straw for Nothing won the Miles Franklin award and, in 1969, Johnston was awarded an OBE.