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The Street Sweeper

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,833 Ratings  ·  504 Reviews
How breathtakingly close we are to lives that at first seem so far away. From the civil rights struggle in the United States to the Nazi crimes against humanity in Europe, there are more stories than people passing one another every day on the bustling streets of every crowded city. Only some stories survive to become history.

Recently released from prison, Lamont Williams,
Hardcover, 626 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by Riverhead Books (first published 2011)
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The Street Sweeper by Elliot PerlmanBlood by Tony BirchSpirit of Progress by Steven CarrollAll That I Am by Anna FunderSarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville
Miles Franklin Longlist 2012
1st out of 13 books — 7 voters
The Book Thief by Markus ZusakCloudstreet by Tim WintonTomorrow, When the War Began by John MarsdenA Town Like Alice by Nevil ShuteThe Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
Best Modern Australian Literature
107th out of 353 books — 462 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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B the BookAddict
Mar 26, 2016 B the BookAddict rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone must read this book
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Michael
In another book conversation, I described The Street Sweeper as giving me a have-my-emotions-turned-upside-down-then-ripped-out-and-stomped on reaction. Pretty apt to add it to this review, I think

Elliot Perlman's work is compelling to the ninth degree, relentless, colossal, intelligent, unsettling, unwavering and deeply, deeply moving. It is one of those rare novels which teaches, reminds and moves us about historical truths simply too important to be forgotten. The phrase from the book which
Violet wells
"Memory is a wilful dog. It won't be summoned or dismissed but it cannot survive without you. It can sustain you or feed on you. It visits when it is hungry, not when you are. It has a schedule all of its own that you can never know. It can capture, corner you or liberate you. It can leave you howling and it can make you smile."

Early in the novel Perlman revives the memory of the four little black girls who are killed by a bomb planted by white supremicists while attending Bible class at the 16t
Angela M
Mar 23, 2014 Angela M rated it it was amazing

While it has been many years since the liberation of the Jews from the last concentration camp, we still need to be told about what happened there because it would be more than disgraceful if we forget. Elliot Perlman masterfully does this in this incredibly important novel, inspired by the lives of some real people. It will shake your sensibilities; it is deeply moving, gut wrenching, and heart breaking and this doesn't aptly describe it .The description of what happened in the gas chambers in
Aug 10, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-ii
What a beautiful story that is full of emotion. Fortunately, I was very patient with this book and was not in a hurry to finish. There are lots of characters and lots of historical happenings that take some time to get through. When everything comes around full circle I found it impossible not to give this a 5 star rating. It's very detailed in explaining the death camps of the war. I guess that's a trigger warning. It's very disturbing. I loved this book!!!! Grab a box of tissues and brace your ...more
Feb 16, 2012 Jillwilson rated it really liked it
I had strong and contrary reactions to the opening of this novel. It’s because it opens with two story trajectories – of black civil rights in America and of Jews and the Holocaust. The positive reaction was to the opening scene with Lamont, the African American man who has just got out of prison and been able to find a placement in a job – against the odds. He is catching a bus to work and is full of anxiety – compounded by the fact that a Hispanic man gets on the bus angry with the driver who ...more
What a truly amazing and well written novel by an Australian writer, Elliot Perlman.

The book starts off in the present tense, New York City with Lamont William, an African American who was recently released from prison. He find a job as a cleaner at a hospital for cancer patients. Lamont is currently on a probation period in his job. He desperately needs to stay clean and on track so he has the security and income to trace the daughter he’s left behind. At the cancer ward that he met and befrien
"Memory is a wilful dog. It won't be summoned or dismissed but it cannot survive without you. It can sustain you or feed on you. It visits when it is hungry, not when you are. It has a schedule of its own that you can never know. It can capture you, corner you or it can liberate you. It can leave you howling and it can make you smile. Sometimes it's funny what you remember."

This is Elliot Perlman's Masterpiece. What a brilliantly written book. It tugs at your heart strings. It is confronting, sh
This is an intensely powerful and moving novel, rich with various themes. I'm not sure whether I can do this book justice with a review.

The story is set in two times. In the present day, we follow the stories of Adam Zignelik, an untenured historian academic at Columbia University who has produced no original research for years, meaning the university will be compelled to let him go, and young Lamont Williams, an ex-prisoner and a hospital janitor on probation. In the story of 60+ years previou
Jan 11, 2012 Fiona rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a bit spasmodic with my book reviews but I think this one deserves some of my time to gather some thoughts and share them. Having read The Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich, much other primary and secondary historical material, including the Goebels Diaries, as well as many novels about the Holocaust, including Lily Brett's work and William Styron's, clearly the subject matter is familiar to me, and to many others. When I bought Elliot Perlman's latest novel, I was also aware that it would be p ...more
Mar 27, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
Elliot Perlman latest book The Street Sweeper is a complex and compelling story with the main theme being the importance of history. The story centres on two men both trying to get there lives back together in different circumstances. The first and the one menchined in the books title is Lamont Williams a man recently out of prison and trying the best to go well in his new job at a hospital while thinking of how to find his 8 year old daughter. While at work Lamont will meet a Jewish pacient Hen ...more
Jan 19, 2014 Abby rated it it was ok
“Tell everyone what happened here.” An old man, dying, a survivor of the death camps in Europe, tells the story of his life to an improbable listener, an African-American ex-con trying to get his life together. The old man insists that the younger man remember and repeat every detail – the hard-to-pronounce names of towns in Poland, the names of people who didn't survive – so he can become part of the chain of memory and tell everyone what happened there.

Meanwhile, a nontenured professor of his
Katz Nancy from NJ
I just finished The Street Sweeper by Elliott Perlman and all I can say is WOW!! This book begins in New York City where we meet a black man who has just been released from jail. The book then introduces us to a Professor of History at Columbia, who was raised in Australia, and learns he won't be receiving tenure. Along the way we meet an elderly man who has survived the Holocaust and tells his story to an orderly at Sloan Kettering Hospital, And then another man from the 40's who interviewed ma ...more
May 02, 2015 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel, historical fiction, swept me away until the last bits of the characters' lives were neatly placed in the bin. Lamont, Noah and Mr Manndelbrot are haunted men living In the 21st century, but tortured by the Holocaust, and race wars. Eliot Perlman, the author, not only masterfully tells stories of these awful times in modern history, but breathes life into them by igniting the past with details so intricate that not only did the characters shudder, but so did this reader.

I recommend th
Banafsheh Serov
Nov 02, 2011 Banafsheh Serov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On a busy New York City corner, four people, a street sweeper, an oncologist, a history professor and a little girl are clustered in a small group. From those who pass them on that busy corner, few if any have any idea as to what has led the group here. Yet these seemingly unrelated individuals from different walks of life are bound by a common history of struggle, bravery, and unexpected kindness of those who have come before them.

Recently released from prison, Lamont Williams is an African Ame
Ben Thurley
Nov 04, 2012 Ben Thurley rated it did not like it
Oh, my goodness I disliked this novel. I hadn't planned to give Perlman another go after Three Dollars which I found clichéd and trite, and I should have stuck with my original intention. In the hands of another author I could see myself enjoying a novel set up the way The Street Sweeper is. I'm interested in all the historical moments it touches on, World War Two, Gandhi's satyagraha against the British in India, the Civil Rights era in the US. I could see myself engaging with the story of a hi ...more
I got to the point of no return last night ... I just had to finish the last 100 pages, and thus are feeling the effects today. Great book, which is a mirage of peoples lives and periods of time. Not too sure about the final paragraph and was expecting a little bit more Ver good though. It is a bit harrowing with the descriptions of the death camps and it is near impossble to imagine the savagery required to manage and work these areas.
Feb 05, 2012 Susan rated it it was ok
Shelves: bailed, novels
I am not really enjoying The Street Sweeper: one character is crazy because he's just gotten out of jail, and the other is crazy because he keeps replaying mentally all the liberal gobbledy gook his father taught him when he was a little boy. When they're not acting crazy, the characters are unutterably didactic. I can't figure out why to finish this drivel.
Zohar -
Jan 05, 2012 Zohar - rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
The Street Sweeper by Australian historian Elliot Perlman is a fictional book which deals with the American struggle for civil rights and the Holocaust. The book beautifully ties together the idea that we are all human and touch each other’s lives.

Lamont Williams, an ex-con African American, is trying to return to normal life after being at the wrong time in the wrong place. Lamont gets a job at a hospital where he works as a janitor and befriends a cancer patient who is also a World War II surv
Crystal Craig
I hate abandoning books, but I've read 12%, and I'm getting more and more irritated with the writing. Why, oh why, oh why does Perlman keep repeating himself? I enjoy books that challenge my mind, make me think a little. I'm not afraid of lengthy novels or unique writing styles, but it's such a chore to read this. Reading shouldn't feel like work. I've connected with the main character, Lamont Williams, but I'm drowning. I wanted to like this book too. Disappointed.
Jun 24, 2012 Rod rated it really liked it
For someone who has probably read one too many books about the holocaust. I loved this book. I love the way Perlman constructs his stories. The way so many lives are connected and the visual imagery his words provoke. I believe him to be a great modern writer...
Dec 08, 2011 Kaylene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely amazing book! Very intense at times particularly when reading about the Holocaust..... An absolute must read.
James Murphy
Mar 20, 2014 James Murphy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tried to dislike this novel. Beginning it, I thought it pedantic, even preachy. As a novel about atrocity and racism, I thought the author's points too plainly and eagerly hammered home, without grace. What bothered me, too, was that Lamont Williams, a 21st century individual necessarily treading water in the sea of information we live in, could be so ignorant of the Holocaust. But I was unsuccessful. I soon began to like The Street Sweeper.

Perlman has written an engaging, even gripping novel,
Feb 04, 2012 Gayle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
October 2011: I am a First-reads winner!! Yay!! And it's the new Elliot Perlman!! How absolutely excellent!!

January 2012:Well it would have been if it had ever come.. Instead of first reads, it's last reads. Can't believe I've waited so long for the new EP. Bought it today, so yay.

Now that is is in my hands at long last, suffice to say, everything else I am currently reading will be put aside. This, I'm sure will deserve my full attention.

Early Feb 2012 : I was afraid through the first hundred
Jan 25, 2015 Mj rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2012
I "hope" to write a more specific review at a later date. I can't quite figure out how to write a review that does the book justice and captures the essence of the book and its topics and the author.

This is the first book I have ever read by Elliot Perlman. He is a very talented writer and a master of his craft. This book is a combination of historical fiction, mystery, suspense, character development, love and relationship, families, guilt, hope - you name it. It is very well researched - the H
Annabel Smith
Mar 14, 2012 Annabel Smith rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Literally everyone should read this
Recommended to Annabel by: Gayle
In The Street Sweeper, Elliot Perlman weaves a number of narratives together against the backdrops of the Holocaust and the Civil Rights movement in America. Perlman has the gift for telling a story you think you already know but making you feel it as though you are hearing it for the first time.

The Street Sweeper begins with the story of Lamont Williams, a young African American man, and Adam Zelegnik, a history professor from Colombia University whose lives are seemingly worlds apart. The stor
Shmuli Cohen
Apr 10, 2013 Shmuli Cohen rated it really liked it
Every Yom Hashoah, I feel a sense of vulnerability because of my own explicit Jewishness. I am unafraid to wear my identity openly, but remain virulently guarded of who I fundamentally am. As a result I am highly sensitive to the communities that I function within and the manner in which these communities refer to, treat, talk about and discuss Jews or Jewish things.
And so it is when I read carefully constructed and meticulously researched fictional accounts of modern Jewish history, the likes o
Dec 23, 2011 Maxine rated it it was amazing
Lamont Williams is an African American ex-con who is trying to make the transition back to a normal life. He lives with his beloved grandmother, has a probationary job at the Sloan Kettering Medical Centre and is searching for his daughter. While at his job, he meets and befriends an elderly Jewish patient who is a Holocaust survivor. This man tells Lamont about his experiences in a Nazi extermination camp in Poland. He makes Lamont repeat the story over and over until he can repeat it in all of ...more
Feb 17, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: ANZLL schedule 2012
Usually when I read a book that the book group is discussing later in the year I take copious notes as I read, but The Street Sweeper, Eliot Perlman's latest novel had me so absorbed, I just didn't want to stop reading. At 544 pages it's a long book, but it held my attention throughout.

In a fractured world where people seem less and less connected to each other, Perlman's story shows us that we can be drawn together by the networks of history and our common humanity. Indeed, despite the barrier
Jan 13, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
During the course of this book, a history professor at Columbia University delivers a lecture to his students with the intent of demonstrating how history is about so much more than memorizing dates and statistics and locations. He wants his students to realize that some of the most compelling historical stories are about the moments when ordinary people are caught up within extraordinary circumstances.

As "The Street Sweeper" unfolds, the reader is taken along an extraordinary journey with some
Nov 08, 2012 Tango rated it it was amazing
I won't try to capture the story, as so many reviews here have already done. This is not a perfect novel but is deserving of five stars for the intensity of the writing. Perlman is able to keep the reader enthralled over 600 or so pages which is quite a feat. I felt a great fondness for each of the characters and cared about what would happen to them.

He includes some incredible coincidences when the lives of the characters intersect in unbelievable ways which did make me step outside the narrati
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Elliot Perlman is an Australian author and barrister. He has written two novels and one short story collection. His work "condemns the economic rationalism that destroys the humanity of ordinary people when they are confronted with unemployment and poverty". This is not surprising in a writer who admires Raymond Carver and Graham Greene because they "write with quite a strong moral centre and a st ...more
More about Elliot Perlman...

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“What else is life from the time you were born but a struggle to matter, at least to someone?” 16 likes
“[Memory] visits when it is hungry, not when you are.” 15 likes
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