Review: Christina Stead’s “Seven Poor Men of Sydney”

by writereaderly

Stead writes about the daily lives of seven poor Sydney men [sic; one woman apparently counts as a bloke] between about 1915 and 1930. The contemporary details were fascinating for one who knows nothing of historical Sydney, despite being born there: picnics in Lane Cove, the building of the Harbour Bridge, the fact that women were called “flossies”, how poor the working classes actually were and how many of them investigated Socialist and Communist ideas and tearooms. Who knew any of these things about Sydney? And how rich and shallow we are by comparison! The ambience and the factoids were fabulous, but my God, a bad novel. All the “dialogue” is nothing more than one character ranting at another, and they’re all stroppy buggers with an awful lot to rant about. I got through about 182pp, but that’s well enough. Abandoned so I can get onto the more interesting books this one’s been keeping me from. I will, however, read others of hers, given that she’s so famous and all and this was her first novel of about 15.

Where it came from: KT’s Bookshelf
Time & manner of reading: Too many failed, sleep-inducing attempts
Where it went to: Home
Reminds me of: Steinbeck again, actually, for that daily look at the lives of the poor working classes in the same era
Who I’d recommend it to: Those in need of some Australian literary-style history (which I suspect is most Aussies!)
Also reading: The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene; Gertrude by Hermann Hesse; The Plumed Serpent by D.H. Lawrence; The Reivers by William Faulkner