Review: Ruth Park’s “The Harp in the South”

by writereaderly

ruth park harp in the southLoaned by DC when I was last near her bookshelf, and due – any month now, so they say – to come up for Bookclub, I cracked it and decided to pull this off the Don’t Touch Pile. This is the first volume of the Darcy family’s life in the post-WWII slum of Surry Hills – Roie’s romances, Hughie’s adventures with the drink and the lottery, Mumma’s relationship with Grandma, Dolour’s school excursion to the beach as funded by the local bordello mistress. Excellent to read in terms of Sydney’s industrial history, and absorbing in that it reminded me that Australia too has (and has had) poor white folk (compared to our contemporary image of ourselves a bourgeois, urban and professional), and slum community stories from anywhere around the world have the same gutsy flavour of tough love and struggle. No modern Australian family would want to be heard slagging off at each other with the smart-arsey love of the Darcys, we’re too bloody proper nowadays — and our turns of phrase are nowhere near as picturesque. A damned good read, recommended.

Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Armchair and bed reads, long overdue
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Cloudstreet, of course, but this is both grittier and pithier
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readers looking for mid-20th-century Aussie life
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf

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