The inner city suburb of Foveaux is known as a place of ill-repute; it's a bit of an embarrassment to the good people of Sydney. From the harbour shore up a steep hill in a maze of tiny streets, the Foveaux houses range from terrible dingy slum-dwellings with searing drains at the foot of the hill to much more substantial semi-respectable abodes at the top. Interspersed between all this teeming residential activity are the smoky small factories and dubious shop concerns where the locals scrape out a precarious living, and the pubs which give them succour. Kylie Tennant's extraordinary second novel is her first exploration of the city. Starting in 1912 and progressing deep into the 1930s, Tennant follows a myriad of storylines and characters with astonishing aplomb, slowly building up, with wit and empathy, a poetic portrait of a locale which makes a futile stab at hitting the heights, and very successfully plumbs the lows, of its times. And all the while she never forgets the simple humanity which graces so strikingly such a moving and funny picture.
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