SEVEN POOR MEN OF SYDNEY book cover   Seven Poor Men of Sydney
Christina Stead

Jacket illustration: Near the Docks 1949, by Sali Herman.

Dustjacket synopsis:
"Set in Sydney in the twenties, this is a fascnating novel made timeless by its richness of imagination and depth of insight; by its exploration of the inner life and the brilliance of its evocative prose. The city itself is as vividly alive as the people who live at Woolloomooloo or "Fisherman's Bay" and walk in the Domain or on the foreshores of the sparkling harbour.

"Catherine Baguenault and her illegitimate half-brother, Michael, suffer the peculiar torments and frustrations of the over-sensitive and over-imaginative; they are more wayward and perverse than Baruch Mendelssohn, the scholar, and Tom Withers, the schemer, who share their thoughts and their poverty; they cannot accept life simply like their cousin Joseph, nor dabble in socialism like their friends the Folliots. Possessed by their own demons, they are rebels who will never conform."

"Seven Poor Men of Sydney has magnificent maturity and solidarity. It presents a group of people, every one special, polished, different from anyone in our experience, living in Sydney in the hungry twenties against a background of social turmoil and in a vibrantly evoked atmosphere of the city itself." - Birmingham Post
"Christina Stead's talent is vital and powerful; her work has that original streak of genius so evident in the best Australian writing, which she had broadened into an ironic understanding of the absurdities, frailities and virtues of personal relationships." - Sunday Times

First Paragraph:

The hideous low scarred yellow horny and barren headland lies curled like a scorpion in a blinding sea and sky. At night, house-lamps and ships' lanterns burn with a rousing shine, and the headlights of cars swing over Fisherman's Bay. In the day, the traffic of the village crawls along the skyline, past the lighthouse and signal station, and drops by cleft and volcanic gully to the old village that has a bare footing on the edge of the bay. It was, and remains, a military and maritime settlement. When the gunners are in camp, searchlights sweep over the bay all night, lighting bedrooms and the china on dressers, discolouring the foliage and making seagulls fly; in the daytime, when the red signal is flown over the barracks, the plates and windows rattle with the report of guns at target practice. From the signal station messages come down of the movements of ships and storms. Flags flutter and red globes swing on its great mast, which is higher than the Catholic Church, higher than the Norfolk Island pines, higher than the lighthouse and than anything else which is between the rocky cornice and the sandy seafloor. In dark nights, from the base of that enormous spectral pole which points up any distance into the starry world, one looks down on the city and northern harbour settlements, on the pilot-lights in the eastern and western channels, and on the unseen dark sea, where the lighthouse ray is lost beyond the horizon and where ships appear through the waves, far out, lighted like a Christmas Tree, small, and disappearing momentarily; and where, after half an hour of increasing radiance, the yellow rim of the great sub-tropical moon comes up like a lantern from underneath.

From the Angus and Robertson hardback edition, 1978.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2003 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: September 15, 2003.