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.

Acclaimed author Elizabeth Stead uses her clear eye and sharp wit to recreate a little known corner of Australian post-war history.

This month’s book, Sparrows of Edward Street by Elizabeth Stead, on the whole was enjoyed by the group. They generally agreed that is was a good read, but not exceptionally outstanding. They discovered many themes in the book, such as post war trauma, hostel life, depression, termination, suicide and personality types. These themes inspired several interesting conversations, just the thing to make book club discussion so enjoyable!

Stead’s characters were mostly found to be believable and a product of their time. However, Aria’s maturity at the age of 17 came into question within the group, although they did agree that her strength and optimism was likely to contribute to her advanced wisdom. Everyone found Mr Sparkle to be a refreshing character greatly influenced by Aria and her optimistic view of the world.

 It was surprising to discover that the housing commission camps existed for the Australian community, as the group’s experience and knowledge to date had only been of hostels for new immigrants. Overall, the book’s enjoyment lay in the Australian setting and the diversity of characters and their resilience against the odds, scoring enough kudos to rate this book within the ‘recommended’ list.

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