Sorry is Gail Jones’s most important and accessible book to date. Perdita is born late in life to immigrant parents Nicholas and Stella. They have come from England so Nicholas can study anthropology. In Broome they keep a ramshackle house with books stacked like furniture. The mother, Stella, obsessively recites Shakespeare, attempting to inject drama into her existence. Perdita is not often shown affection, and only feels at home in the arms of the Aboriginal tribeswomen whom Nicholas studies nearby.
A saviour comes in the form of Mary, an Aboriginal slavegirl and victim of the stolen generation. She becomes Mary’s ‘sister’ and, along with the deaf and dumb Billy, they become their own tribe.
Jones’s female characters often take the place of the ‘other’, subverting the usual role of the group of characters around the protagonist. In Dreams of Speaking Alice was confronted by the horrors of Hiroshima, after meeting a first-hand witness in Mr Sakamoto. She was the displaced figure, small and insignificant, in London, and later in Japan, swarming with electronic reminders of progress and digital transcendence. In Sixty Lights , Lucy is ahead of her time in Bombay and London; eccentrically fascinated with photography, new technologies capturing time. She is the ‘other’, displaced by her advanced cultural sensibilities.