Water Under the Bridge
Sumner Locke Elliott
"If something could buckle this mighty, beautiful thing, so it would not stand for a thousand years, it could have been the shout from all those throats letting go when the sun caught the first glittering girders against the sky...At last there was something to cheer about in this year of misery, 1932.
"Neil Atkins, aspiring actor, is thwarted by the three loves of his life: his feisty ex-showgirl guardian Shasta with whom he shares a love neither of them can ever express; Maggie McGhee, pragmatic journalist, whose capacity for devotion offers more than he can cope with; and Carrie Mazzini, indulgent heiress, whose tainted life cripples her capacity to return Neil's adoration.
"Twenty years after its original publication, Water Under the Bridge remains Sumner Locke Elliott's masterpiece. Laconic and wry in characterisation, devasting in its emotional impact, this astonishing novel is a watershed in its depiction of Australian identity."
The Coleses got up at a quarter to four in the morning so that they might be the first people to cross the bridge when the ribbon was cut. But they found that thousands had spent the night sleeping and camping out along the approaches so that by the time they arrived in the beginnings of the first light of day the whole population of Sydney seemed to have collected in the shadows of the pylons. Oh, never mind, Mrs. Coles said, at least we're here and, Nance, you'll be able to tell your grandchildren. But I wonder just the same, she said looking up at the immensity of steel, if it's safe. Safe? Oh, they laughed at her. Well, all this mob crossing at once, would the Bridge hold? Don't be a galoot, Edna, Mr. Coles said. Hadn't they lined up a fleet of obsolete train engines end to end for months to test the strain of the arch? Anyway, Mrs. Coles said, it's my opinion they ought to have limited how many could come the first day, they should have had a lottery so the whole world and his wife couldn't have got here before us.
From the Picador paperback edition, 1997.
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Last modified: March 27, 2008.