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The Harp In The South
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The Harp In The South (Harp in the South #2)

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  1,710 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Since it was first published in 1948, this compassionate novel has become a favourite with generations of Australian readers.

The Harp in the South is a nostalgic and moving portrait of the eventful family life of the Darcys of Number Twelve-and-a-Half Plymouth Street in Surry Hills, a Sydney slum. There grow the bitter-sweet first and last loves of Roie Darcy, who becomes...more
251 pages
Published January 1987 by Penguin (first published 1948)
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The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCulloughTomorrow, When the War Began by John MarsdenA Town Like Alice by Nevil ShuteCloudstreet by Tim WintonPicnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
Best Books Set in Australia
19th out of 516 books — 268 voters
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Deborah Biancotti
So I figured that, given the amount of resistance I've always had towards this book, I might end up loving it fiercely when I finally read it. But I didn't. I just liked it. Well enough.

On the plus side, I enjoyed the fact it's almost a series of short stories rather than a novel (Park herself said she wanted to write a book that was plotless, like life). I enjoyed the early chapters, which were mainly character portraits. I enjoyed the way Park evokes the poverty, over-crowding and lack of hope...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

I think I was about eleven when I first read this Australian classic and I decided to reread this year it to fulfil my Eclectic Reader challenge requirements after it was named in the First Tuesday Book Club's Top Ten Books to Read Before You Die.

The Harp in the South is a glimpse into the everyday life of inner Sydney's poorest post war community and introduces the Darcy family who live in Sydney's slums at Twelve-and-a-Half Plymouth Street, Surry Hills. The Irish Catholic Darcy's are an avera...more
Set in the 1940s, Harp in The South tells the story of the Darcy family who live in the working class suburb of Surrey Hills in Sydney. Hughie and Margaret (Mumma) live with their two daughters Roie and Dolour and Mumma’s mother (Grandma) as well as their boarder Mr Diamond in a small terrace house. Hughie has a job at a foundry, but is often off sick due to the effects of the sly grog he over-indulges in on a regular basis. Mumma is a housewife who does her best to be a good Catholic wife, amon...more
Sharon Marchingo
Harp in the South
By Ruth Park
The Harp in the South is a classic Australian novel that was the latest discussion book for the Crusoe Community Book Club. It was also nominated by The Tuesday Book Club on the ABC as one of the top 10 Australian reads of all time. The setting of the novel is Surry Hills in Sydney just after World War 2 (although this is never quite stated). The Darcy family are close knit but live a life of poverty amidst the brothels, grog shops and run down housing of the area. M...more
Set in the 1940s and first published in 1948, The Harp in the South is a well renowned Aussie classic. Author Ruth Park (who passed away in 2010) was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia in 1942. After marrying writer D’Arcy Niland they moved to Sydney where she wrote full time, with over fifty books to her name, and she also received many awards including a Miles Franklin Award.

The Harp in the South is a story of the Darcy family, living in the slums of Sydney, extremely poor and struggl...more
Andy Quan
I wonder where Plymouth Street, Surry Hills is, the setting of Ruth Park's 'The Harp in the South'. I can almost imagine it only a block away, perhaps on Albion Street, a little bit further down from Frog Hollow park. I say this because the reason that I read this book from 1948 was because it is set in the neighbourhood in which I live, and that was one of the great pleasures of the book, that I could feel the surroundings long ago, that the short walk down to Chinatown and Market City is one I...more
Bruno Bouchet
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mel Campbell
To be honest I read this years ago and so its details escape me, but I remember being struck by the vividness of its portrayal of inner-city poverty. In its portrayal of old-fashioned Australian working-class life and the role of women in particular, I file it along with Brides of Christ and Come in Spinner .

I read it as an example of a bygone form of community in which people of different races and circumstances (disabled, addicted, pregnant, aspirant, etc) were forced to coexist and be confron...more
Jo Case
It’s amazing to think that this treasured Australian classic began life on a whim, when Ruth Park decided to enter the ‘novel’ component of the Sydney Morning Herald’s inaugural writing competition. “We don’t write books,” said her writer-husband, little realising that this was to be the start of a long career doing just that. It’s even more surprising to think that the book caused a scandal with its “immorality” on first publication in 1948. “As a writer, love is what I have always written abou...more
Sean Kennedy
A true Aussie classic, brimming with love, humour, pathos and true character studies, The Harp in the South is notable for having working class heroes in a time where they weren't really championed in Australian literature - surprising seeing so much of Australian identity is focused upon the image of the Aussie battler.

Some modern readers may take umbrage with what they see as stereotypical characters but this context is important - it wasn't stereotypical at the time - and it is hard to deny t...more
The Harp in the South (1948) was Ruth Park’s first novel and is, I think, the nest-loved of all her books. While her two small children slept, Ruth Park wrote it on the kitchen table of her parents’ home in New Zealand while she was visiting from Australia. She and her husband D’Arcy Niland were determined to make a living from writing, and the Sydney Morning Herald’s literary competition with a prize of £2000 propelled her into using her experiences in the slum Sydney suburb of Surry Hills for...more
Amanda Barrett
12 ½ Plymouth Street, Surry Hills Sydney, post World War II, is the setting for the Australian classic novel The Harp in the South by author Ruth Park. The tenements on Plymouth Street are vividly brought to life by the writing of Ruth Park. For the Darcey family, Irish Catholic immigrants, residing in this inner city slum area, life is a struggle. The characters of Margaret “Mumma” Darcey, Hughie Darcey and their two daughters Rowena and Dolour must contend with poverty, violence, alcoholism, p...more
Charmaine Clancy
Australian classic. Good episodic tale of the trials and triumphs of The Darcy's of Surry Hills. There are some very endearing moments in this novel and it inspires nostalgia for those hard times that build the strongest bonds. I did find most of the turns in the story predictable and it left me longing for something to work out as a surprise and not what you would expect.
Pamela Bray
Apr 01, 2013 Pamela Bray rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cheryl
What a brilliantly written book - an amazing story told through the generations of this family so intimately (you are in the bedroom with them or in the kitchen or sitting in the gutter). But the language... this is masterly written, exceptional in its word craft, in its portrayal of the everyday with humour, sadness, hope, emotion.
Hannah Louey

A couple of weeks ago, a group of uni mates and I took part in a literary trivia night (have you heard of anything greater? Me either). Well, we were trounced. While we did OK in the general knowledge section, pretty well in the movie adaptation section…we were absolutely stuffed in the ‘Australian Classics’ section. Basically, if the answer wasn’t Helen Garner or Tim Winton, we were screwed. Propelled by this, I thought it best to actually read some Austr...more
Atmospheric novel of life in Surrey Hills in the early days of Sydney in the 20th century. The Darcys are a poor Irish Catholic family. The novel centres on Rowena, Roie as she comes of age. We follow her as she meets Tommy, a young Jewish lad, and her first boyfriend, who makes her pregnant. She loses the child after a violent attack, and then meets Charlie, a part Aboriginal, to whom she gets married and bears a child.

This novel introduces several key themes - poverty, religion in the life of...more
I loved this book for the characters, but it's not a plot driven book so i think that lost me a little bit. More than anything, it's a study of character and environment, and how the one drives the other. I don't think it would warrant a second read but i'm glad i picked it up.
Great read. Very easy to get into, loved the characters. Could relate to all of them. Truly an Australian literary treasure.
Great characters enduring a gritty and impoverished existence. So much hope springs from their love for each other.
This book has been one of those that I was 'going to read someday'. As it is on many lists of 'Australian Books You Must Read', I finally downloaded it as an audiobook and enjoyed it immensely. Set in NSW after WW2, a family deals with the day to day struggles in living a hand -to-mouth existence, the living conditions described in a matter of fact way which seems to make it even more shocking. The relationship between the sister, their parents, the boarders in the house and other neighbours was...more
What a gem.
I embraced Ruth Park's The Harp in the South in a way I haven't embraced a book for along while. For a start, I read it in paperback form, not digital, and have realised that's my preference. But most importantly, Ruth took me into the world of her characters with lyrical prose that strikes the soul. She describes the illiterate, streetwise residents of twelve and a half Plymouth Street in Surry Hills Sydney and beyond, in the 1930s. The squalor is palpable and the poverty terrifying and depress...more
Any Length
****Spoiler alert *****

I read this book because it had been listed among the 10 Australian books you must read before you die by the ABC's "First Tuesday Bookclub". I had read most of the others and thought I'd read the missing ones.
At first I didn't enjoy the book much as it talks so much about poverty and people with very little education and the squaller of the lives they led in those days.
After a while I really got into the style of the book and began to like it.
I do however had one gripe...more
As soon as I started reading, I realised, yes, I have read these words before. It did not matter because this book is a wonderful look at Australian life.
The Darcy family are the epitome of the Aussie battler as they are poor with little prospect of improving their position in life. They live in the slums of Sydney during the 1940s when sly grog houses, prostitution, razor gangs and drugs where a way of life. You are drawn into this world as the Darcy's face each day with a decision about how...more
Laura Rittenhouse
Written and set in 1940s Sydney, this book gives a real look into the world of the struggling underclass which inhabited that city. The Darcy's are a poor family with a couple of daughters struggling to keep afloat. The daughters dream and strive for a more exciting life and for romantic love that can be hard to secure in these conditions. It's beautifully told and the characters are all very real. I was drawn into their lives and my mood rose and fell with their fortunes.
Jakey Gee
Relieved to discover that this risky-for-its-time second generation Aussie Irish number bares no resemblance to the made-for-export schlock I've grown to expect from the category, post that arsecrack Frank McCourt (marketing expert and occasional memoir writer).

Poverty, abortion, bedbugs - but not a trace of sentimentality. In fact, it's a really sound portrayal of everyday Irish wit - Australian or otherwise. She knew her onions, that one.
I was given 'Harp in the South' by a friend to read and loved it but felt I needed more only to discover it is the second book of a trilogy. I the set about reading the prequel, 'Missus' and sequel, 'Poor Man's Orange'. The story, spread over 30 years of an impoverished family living in the Sydney slums.
Beautifully and compassionately told but not hampered by the political correctness we are choked with these days.
Desperately sad and yet , at times, very funny. I loved this classic tale. A must...more
Kelly Pickett
Heartfelt yet slightly obtuse tale of 1940s inner city poverty in Sydney, Australia. Some beautiful prose interwoven with unfortunate somewhat triumphant stereotypes and values of a bygone era. Regardless, it paints an amazing portrait of what urban living was like before gentrification. Well worth the read.
Read this as a child at school and only memory I had of it was the teenage girl got pregnant and it lacked in romance. Thankfully I had a much deeper appreciation of the author this time. Wonderful depiction of early modern day Australia when dirt poor really meant that. I think we all should remember the roots and tough life that forged Australia. Loved the way even in hard times the respect the nuns and the church were cable to maintain the life on the sleazy side of the street and the prostit...more
I didn't realize when I downloaded this book that it was the trilogy, "Mrs", "The Harp in the South" and "Poor Man's Orange". I really enjoyed Harp and Orange, but the first, Mrs., was written by Park about 10 years after the other two. It didn't flow and some of the main characters in Mrs didn't even get a mention in the later books. One character in particular, who I thought was the main character in the prequel and was particularly well written and whom I loved, did not exist in "Harp " and "...more
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Ruth Park was a New Zealand-born author, who spent most of her life in Australia. She was born in Auckland, and her family later moved to Te Kuiti further south in the North Island of New Zealand, where they lived in isolated areas.

During the Great Depression her working class father worked on bush roads, as a driver, on relief work, as a sawmill hand, and finally shifted back to Auckland as counc...more
More about Ruth Park...
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“And when he got home he started on Mumma. He hated her then, because in her fatness and untidiness and drabness she reminded him of what he himself was when he was sober.” 0 likes
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