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

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  2,994 Ratings  ·  167 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
Paperback, 251 pages
Published January 1951 by Penguin (first published 1948)
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What an Australian classic. This story captures the essence of the hard life of the Darcy family, Sydney in the mid nineteen hundreds. They were poor and down trodden, they did not have anything to their names. What they did have in spades was a lot of love amongst the mess and slum that existed in Surry Hills during that time. Teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, racism (as I listened to an audio version I didn't take notes. But I loved a line between to young people in love discussing marriage, and ...more
Jan 28, 2017 4triplezed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-fiction, australia
Very good. A story of the working poor in pre-war Surry Hills in Sydney. Nowadays Surry Hill is probably as expensive as any place on planet earth so the description of this long lost working poor suburb is a look into a past that no longer exists.

The story itself covers the life of the Catholic Darcy family, the sons and daughters of Irish migrants, and makes a humane read of these people and their struggles through life be it tragic loss or love. Their trials and tribulations are well told in
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
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
M.J. Johnson
Jun 30, 2015 M.J. Johnson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
The Harp in the South (published 1948) is actually the second book in a trilogy, although it was written first. The success of the novel was followed by Poor Man’s Orange (1949 - last book in trilogy) and Missus, the first book in the trilogy but actually written very much later, in 1985 in fact. I had no idea until after I'd finished reading it, that the (Harp in South) book was the winner of a newspaper competition and serialised in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1947. It’s not difficult to beli ...more
Jan 21, 2012 Suzie rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 13, 2013 Sharon Marchingo rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 08, 2016 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Harp in the South by Ruth Park is set in Surry Hills of Sydney in the 1930's. The story focuses on the way in which the family of the Darcy's who live in number twelve and a half, Plymouth street, deal with the events and environment they are bought up in.

The important themes of the book centre around the poverty faced by people living in the area at this time, which is essential to the make up of this book. It enables an understanding of the characters as well as an insight into their da
Mar 26, 2017 Roger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group, fiction
I was a big fan of Ruth Park's Muddle-Headed Wombat books as a child, but had never read any of her adult work. This is an incredibly accomplished first novel, set in late 1940s Surry Hills, Sydney - then a slum largely populated by poor Irish and other immigrant families. It's a fascinating look at a period not all that long ago, but totally alien to my 1960s lower-middle class Melbourne childhood. Ruth Park's characters are all well-fleshed out and believable. She takes us inside their heads a ...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
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 confro
Jul 16, 2010 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia, c20th
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
Daniel Jon Kershaw
Feb 12, 2015 Daniel Jon Kershaw rated it really liked it
It grew slowly on me like barnacles on a boat, but I was in no hurry to scrap them off once they were there. 3 and a half stars.
Jo Case
Mar 15, 2013 Jo Case rated it it was amazing
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
Andy Quan
Dec 14, 2012 Andy Quan rated it really liked it
Shelves: australia
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.
Sean Kennedy
Feb 14, 2013 Sean Kennedy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 30, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, audiobook
I feel very torn about this book- hailed as Australian must read classic I found it dull and boring failing to capture my imagination about the Sydney slums. However reading about Ruth Park and the impact the book had when it was released in 1948 and especially how Mrs. Park gave women a voice through her book made me feel much more gentle and good willing towards it. I listened to it as an audiobook and the reader was fantastic! 3 stars all up!
Antoinette Buchanan
Such a great book. It was lovely to spend a few hours with the Darcy's and their neighbourhood again. I was Dolour's age when I read it first, and now I'm about Mumma's. And the intervening years have left me with a greater appreciation of Ruth Park's work - her humour, humanity and historian's eye.
Charmaine Clancy
Dec 27, 2012 Charmaine Clancy rated it liked it
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
Jan 06, 2013 Pamela Bray rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 04, 2011 Taryn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 02, 2013 Joanne rated it really liked it
Great characters enduring a gritty and impoverished existence. So much hope springs from their love for each other.
Jul 07, 2013 Helen rated it really liked it
Great read. Very easy to get into, loved the characters. Could relate to all of them. Truly an Australian literary treasure.
Jun 21, 2014 Margi rated it it was amazing
What a gem.
Alex Joyner
May 04, 2017 Alex Joyner rated it really liked it
I make slow progress through audio books, so I lived in the slums of Sydney’s Surry Hills for about nine months while I interspersed the sojourn with podcasts in my car. I lived among the big-hearted Irish Catholic immigrants courtesy of Ruth Park, whose 1948 book, The Harp in the South, is something of an Australian classic. Part Dickens and D.H. Lawrence, this manages to be a big novel about small things.

The story follows the Darcy family through the trials of poverty, child abduction, unwante
Jun 09, 2017 Liz rated it really liked it
Classic Australian book. Loved the portrait of Surry Hills and the "lucky", "happy" family with very little in the material sense but who counted themselves lucky, particularly when contrasted with Charlie's lonely childhood.
I read it many years ago and enjoyed it then but enjoyed the detailed relationships and setting even more this time.
Nov 12, 2016 Julie rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written book of life with the Darcy's in the slums of 1940s Surry Hills.

Ruth Park's writing is wonderful - it transports you to the dirt, the brothels, pubs & struggle to make the best of everyday life of the time. The characters are wonderfully drawn, and even with all the hardship and each of their 'foibles', the overwhelming emotion I took from this book is 'Love'.
Danielle Bizjak
May 25, 2017 Danielle Bizjak rated it liked it
There is no real plot to this book it's just about a family who live in poverty before the war. It's episodic and the house is in the same vein as Cloudstreet (without the magical realism aspects of Cloudstreet). It is important that Ruth Park wrote about poverty but it wasn't as interesting as I hoped it would be .
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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 about Ruth Park...

Other Books in the Series

Harp in the South (3 books)
  • Missus
  • Poor Man's Orange

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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.” 2 likes
“Having a baby is different from all the ordinary ways of being hurt. it's worth it all. Other pain isn't worth anything, but that is.” 1 likes
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