12 October 2019

Book Review from Wallaga Lake - 'The Harp In the South' trilogy

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Photo: Penguin Books.

Listening to the trilogy of novels by Ruth Park (Missus, Harp in the South and Poor Man’s Orange) and read by Kate Hood has been extraordinarily moving.

They tell of a family, their life experience, their trials and tribulations starting in the late 1800’s and going through till the late nineteen fifties. If you wanted to know what it was like to grow up poor in Australia at that time you could hardly do better.

Of course, some of us are old enough, or lived a harsh early life, that the recognition is immediate and powerful, the conversations, the presence of the pub in everyday life, the street smells of Surry Hills, the religion and the snobbery, and the sheer glorious resilience of people battling through difficulties and doing the best they can.

Issues are raised: immigration, abortion, racial prejudice, ambition, and though progress has been made on some fronts, the brutal language describing the situation applies in some cases today.

Far from being a dreary recital of hardship, there is humour and sensitivity, the characters for all their faults and failures, their kindnesses and cruelties, their bigotry and acceptance, are never left out to dry by Ruth Park.

Park’s generosity of spirit permeates the books and the effect is to understand better the struggle each of us faces, just in living. To acknowledge that life is often not fair somehow takes the sting from that pain.

Park also includes soaring passages about events such as the arrival of a Southerly Buster into the Sydney slums, the bells and smells of a Catholic Mass, the interior of an old-fashioned delicatessen. They are wonderful descriptions, unmatched by any other Australian writer, except perhaps Tim Winton, writing about the Swan River.

We listened to these novels via the Bega Valley Library. I am sure these books will please many people, whether read or listened to. If you choose to take the audio path, you will be sure to enjoy the reading by Kate Hood. She reads with relish and delight. Truly a great experience.

Review by Keith B of Wallaga Lake, first published in The Triangle community newspaper.

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Jenny Drenkhahn1:19 pm 12 Oct 19

I remember a childhood book by Ruth Park about a magpie; I’d love ti find it again

Was it “Playing Beatie Beau” ? Ruth Park wrote this too

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