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Common People

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  311 ratings  ·  41 reviews
From the award-winning author of Ghost River. In this unforgettable new collection, Tony Birch introduces a cast of characters from all walks of life. These remarkable and surprising stories capture common people caught up in the everyday business of living and the struggle to survive. From two single mothers on the most unlikely night shift to a homeless man unexpectedly ...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published November 1st 2017 by University of Queensland Press (first published July 26th 2017)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  311 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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I really enjoyed this short story collection about many people living less than desirable lives in modern day surburbian and regional Australia.
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a fine writer Tony Birch is - this is such a great collection of stories
Anna Baillie-Karas
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Compassionate, understated, these stories are slices of life in Australia, giving us characters on the fringe of society, people you might overlook on a bus, at school, in a hospital waiting room. Tony Birch writes cleanly and maintains suspense and sometimes a sense of menace, but there is optimism throughout. It’s realist so expect some swearing and tough moments, but told with empathy.
Nicola Kuispear
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There's a delightful touch in characterisation and setting in Tony's work. It's a delight to read.
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
What is most striking about this collection of short stories is Birch's compassion for the fringe dwellers about whom he writes. Males, females, children, adults, Indigenous, non-Indigenous, most of his characters struggled against limitations imposed upon them in Australian society by their race, by their class, by their financial situation, and by the imbalance of power that resulted from these hardships.

For me, the element that distinguishes a short story is the author's ability to focus on
Rachael (shereadsshenoms)
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great collection of short stories exploring the lives of common people throughout Australia across different time periods. Some stories stronger than others, but some beautiful lines scattered and poignant moments throughout. Shamefully this was my first Tony Birch read and I'll be certainly heading to his backlist now.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. Really like his other work; this falls short on all fronts. A very weak collection in general. The stories are too simplistic, and end in the kind of way that indicates a profound truth, but is not achieved at all - certainly not like Birch's other works. The stories are truthful, broad and, most promisingly, about common people - the everyman - but I felt were too basic and explored only the surface level.
Maha Abed
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some engaging, matter-of-fact short stories, filled with endearing and moving moments. A few made me laugh, others made me consider situations in Australia on an even deeper level.
Janine De paiva
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved it!! I don’t normally like short stories but these were so well written. Beautiful images created. And I particularly loved the Indigenous stories.
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
3 1/2 stars. A collection of short stories that reflect on disenfranchisement in the forms of race, socio-economic status, addiction, ageing, mental health issues and unemployment. Birch examines the causes and effects on ‘common’ people.
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I knew this was going to be a great collection, and lo, it is. I think perhaps my favourite is the story of a genealogist hired by a closing-down funeral home, but it's a close call. The depth of attention here: to character, to different grades of urban, suburban and rural setting, to economic and racial factors, is phenomenal but never laboured. Brilliant work.
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Something of a disappointment. Some of the stories work well but a number of them felt very clunky and not up to Tony's usual high standards.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it
This collection of unrelated short stories sheds light on the harsh world of Australian aborigines. Every story feels real. All the events that happen in the stories feel real.

The stories tell about Aboriginal people living in poor economic and social conditions and what they do. There are no explicit value judgements made about the characters in the stories. The hardships that they endure are not focused upon. Quite the opposite. They are accepted because this is how it is for these people. The
This collection of 15 short stories by Tony Birch brings us stories of the everyday as it is lived by marginalised people. The title is ironic, because although it implies that these people are all around, often unseen, they are nonetheless remarkable.
The first story, ‘Ghost Train’ is confronting. Two single mothers, Marian and Lydia, drive to a remote site in the country for a cash-in-hand meat-packing job which turns out to be in an off-the-grid slaughterhouse. Marian is wearing a skimpy T-shi
Jessica Foster
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian, stories
3.5 stars
Finely cut short stories from someone who's clearly mastered the craft. Each short story is immediate; sliding you in with clean writing and vivid setting. You could march through this collection in one heady sitting, but spacing them out, like chocolate, is best. Indigenous characters are featured alongside perhaps white people, that is not explicit but what is is this sense of fairly tough characters who all seem to, without question, overcome and endure. Why wouldn't you. This is Aus
Adam Deverell
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Another highly readable collection by Tony Birch. He writes in a very simple, almost slight, minimal style that suits the everyday people in his stories.

He's at his best writing from a child's point of view. "Sissy" tells the story of an aboriginal girl who balks at a holiday with a wealthy white family, "Death Star" of a would be car thief on the verge of taking over his dead brother's legacy and "The White Girl" of an aboriginal boy's crush on an altruistic white girl - a story with an open en
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
I admired Birch's Ghost River and the way he wrote about the marginalised of Melbourne. In this collection his characters are from the urban underclass and also the regional poor, including Aboriginals. They are all living on the edge of society, some scrounging a legitimate living, others involved in petty crime. My most memorable character was 'Harmless' - an elusive man who sleeps on the town park benches or retreats into the bush. But it is Harmless who gives the townspeople - and readers - ...more
Mehdi Miri Disfani
Dec 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Tony Birch in this book (collection of short stories) brings to life the stories of ordinary people, their struggles and challenges! Some of the stories may look too simple or common, but these are the stories of people sitting next to us on tram, working next to us at office or a neighbor which we know little about! The real life stories of people with their struggles and ups and downs!

I have read few of Tony Birch's books and they helped me a lot in connecting to Melbourne as a migrant, to get
Chris Patrick Hansen
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such an enjoyable read, blew through all 215 pages in a little over a day. Birch recognises beauty and meaning where you'd never expect, makes you reflect on things you might not have ever considered, and gives really thoughtful insight into the struggles of others. If you're looking for a great collection of short stories, get this book. If you're looking to walk a mile in the shoes of those you've never really given a second thought to, get this book. If you're looking to support indigenous cr ...more
Cel Jel
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book of short stories of the lives of common people. I found this book fascinating in the variety of everyday lives he managed to cover, but short episodes in very every day lives. His prose was pared down but revealed very different aspects of life.
I recommend this book for providing insight into lives you may never have come across but that will help you recognise the breadth of ordinary people.
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
#82. Common People by Tony Birch. I love short stories and this collection is classic. I've been reading them intermittently between longer reads.
Each story deals with real people with whom we can identify, in real life situations. . . all gritty and thought provoking and realistic. Despite the brevity of each story, the characters are clearly drawn and come easily to life and the stories are very satisfying in themselves. Well worth reading. ****
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great mix of short stories that I read in less than 24 hours. My favourites were "Harmless" and "Raven and Sons". I'd give the book 4.5 stars if I could but there were a few weird aspects that stopped me from giving it 5 the title of the first story "The Ghost Train" that didn't seem to match with the story at all!
Anna Davidson
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not being a fan of short stories, I was reluctant to pick this up at first, but I’m so glad I did. A collection of stunning character portraits, Tony Birch has a way of making each character’s situation seep in under your skin in just a few pages with an intense peek inside the lives of those living on the margins of society. A must read.
Emory Black
This is a collection of snap shots of various peoples lives. Some deal with drugs, alcohol and death. Some touch on racism. Many, I wish, were a bit longer or offered a bit more closure. But I guess sometimes life doesn't hand us answers.
Nuwani Perez
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Simply, short stories..but with important msgs and lessons to remember. Loved reading something based in Melbourne context and the diversities of all the characters. Will definitely pick up another Tony Birch in the future!
Jul 10, 2019 rated it liked it
We try to forget the truth sometimes. All of us, walking in and out of this hospital. Me as much as anyone. But the body, it never lies. It carries our scars, on the inside and outside. The body never forgets.
Natasha Tresham
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
A short but lovely collection. Tony Birch is truly a national treasure.
Lauren Deville
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this. 4.5. Moved to tears... in public! But I don’t care. I hope people saw me sobbing and took note of the cover.
Amy Plant
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful Australian literature - a must read!
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Good: 3.85; stories about down to earth people....
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Tony Birch is the author of Ghost River, which won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. He is also the author of Shadowboxing and three short story collections, Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People. In 2017 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award. Tony is a frequent contributor to ABC local and n ...more

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