The portrayal of an Irish-Australian family living in the slums of Surrey Hills in the ’40s. Ruth Park is a New Zealand-born Australian.
❍ “The Harp of The South was a bit of an average read for me. It did make me think, and I did feel connected to the characters. I was at time moved by ideas about being poor and the day-to-day struggles this meant. I smelled the odour of poverty, of stale cooking smells, slowly rotting wallpaper, and stale sweat. I felt with the characters their disappointment, frustration and struggles. But I also saw in them snippets of hope and optimism, and their experience of joy and beauty albeit rare. Their love for each other was evident throughout their struggles, and in this way it was not a depressing book. However, I did struggle to get through it! I felt the absence of an overall plot, or building of tension meant I wasn’t drawn into to reading it. The little anecdotes of life events were short and choppy, and at times I felt annoyed by this. Overall, I felt a little underwhelmed, and it probably wouldn’t be on my list of recommended reads.” – Sonya
❍ “While I enjoyed this novel I found that the numerous peaks and troughs of the story were not explored fully and many times did not lead on with further expected development. So when various seemingly meaty story lines went nowhere it was somewhat disappointing. I loved the distinct and feisty characters and the themes of poverty, lack of hope and unconditional love made for a compelling mix. When the dread of potential disaster did not materialise with Roie’s love story and there was an overly sentimental dip in the story I’m afraid my enthusiasm hit a low. I still enjoyed the story and found it an easy read but I have to say it was not one of my favourites.” – Jo
❍ “A nostalgic and moving story which encapsulates a moment of Australian history. True-to-life characters and detailed imagery provide plenty of incentive to read on, despite the lack of an obvious tension-filled plot. The poverty is spelled out in many ways yet it is easy to not pity the Darcys, who, despite their faults, are a close and loving family. I wasn’t enamoured with the ending and regarded it more as a precursor for the sequel.” – Rachel