The classic Australian story is a different kind of beast from your average novel. My limited exposure to Australian literature has shown me that sense of place and the lives of ordinary people far outweigh a strong plot. Would you agree?
This year one of my reading goals was to read more Australian lit, so I dabbled in the likes of Tim Winton, Ruth Park and Helen Garner. A good start to Aussie literature, I reckon!
I’ll share my reflections on Ruth Park’s The Harp in the South, though some of my thoughts could probably be applied to my experience of Australian novels more broadly.
Earlier this year I read The Harp in the South via audiobook. Have you read it? Published in 1948, The Harp in the South is the second within a trilogy that follows the Darcys, a Catholic-Irish Aussie family who live in Sydney’s suburban slums. If you can get your hands on the audio version read by Kate Hood, do it! She’s a fantastic narrator.
Here are some things that struck me about The Harp in the South:
- The story is a snapshot of Australian history wrapped in fiction. By zooming in on one family and their daily lives in the slums, it tells a larger narative about post-war life in Australia.
- It reminded me of Cloudstreet by Tim Winton. I imagine Ruth Park’s literature was a significant influence on Tim Winton and other Aussie authors.
- The descriptions of characters and surrounding environment are vibrant, detailed and quite funny.
- It felt like the whole world existed within the small hub that contained the Darcy’s life: school, pub, the prostitute-lined street, the market and the fish and chip shop.
- The struggles each family member faced were raw and honest. From gambling and alcohol problems; finding love in a time where marriage was still a survival strategy; finding a sense of identity; facing illness and soul-scarring grief, all lathered with the Aussie-battler aversion to dwelling on the things you just can’t change.
- The Harp in the South is beautiful, sometimes uncomfortable and definitely a must read.
So, dear Bookclubbers, what are your thoughts? Have you read any Ruth Park? Are there any particular Aussie novels you’d recommend? Any characters or authors that tickle your fancy? I’d love to hear your thoughts, just pop them in ‘Comments’ section below.
I look forward to chatting with you further in bookclub!