Source- review copy/ University of Queensland Press
Synopsis: It’s 1948 and Hanora Sparrow and her teenage daughters, Aria and Rosy, have fallen on tough times. With little more than the suitcases they carry and a few pounds between them, they must move to a housing commission camp on the outskirts of Sydney
While the prospect of life in a ramshackle tin shed is grim, these women soon learn that they are not alone. As they befriend other camp residents such as Mr Sparkle, who’s had to leave his family behind to look for work in the city, Mr Gardiner, the war hero who never recovered, and the women of the laundry circle who are the eyes and ears of the camp, the Sparrow women discover that resilience and good humour might just be their salvation.
In The Sparrows of Edward Street, acclaimed author Elizabeth Stead uses her clear eye and sharp wit to recreate a little known corner of Australian post-war history.
Review: Teenager, Aria Sparrow, her mother Hanora and younger sister Rosy have moved into 19B Edward Street in the Housing Commission Camp, Sydney. They try to make the most of their tin shed and quirky neighbours; with Aria’s exuberance they create a sense of community in the camp despite their socioeconomic disadvantages. Rosy is a precocious teen who is mortified to live in a tin house in the outskirts of Sydney. The humour sibling rivalry penetrates throughout the novel with this common dialogue between Aria and Rosy:
‘I’m not sorry!’
It’s quite humorous, Rosy is uncomfortable with Aria’s brashness but Aria is quite proud of it. The story is told from Aria’s POV and I quite enjoyed her matter of fact attitude and way of seeing life. Aria, along with the other women in her family shows an admirable resilience in the face of adversity. Aria is an endearing model who has a regular job in advertising where she gets paid to ‘love’ things for the purposes of marketing from deoderant to cleaning products.
Stead creates intriguing characters and brings the Sparrow family to life, beautifully complimented by eccentric characters such as Mr Sparkle and even Leon who I really liked. Themes of death, loss, abortions and oppression are highlighted by the author.
The Sparrows of Edward Street is an interesting story about early public housing in Sydney with intriguing characters who face challenges consistent with the era of rising feminist notions in post-war Australia.
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About the author: Elizabeth Stead is Sydney-born and is the niece of acclaimed Australian novelist Christina Stead. From childhood, Elizabeth was greatly inspired by her grandfather, David George Stead, pioneer naturalist, conservationist and storyteller. Elizabeth has published short fiction, and three previous novels, The Fishcastle, The Different World of Fin Starling and The Book of Tides.