Foveaux (Tennant, Kylie)

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The inner city suburb of Foveaux is known as a place of ill-repute; it's a bit of an embarrassment to the good people of Sydney. From the harbour shore up a steep hill in a maze of tiny streets, the Foveaux houses range from terrible dingy slum-dwellings with searing drains at the foot of the hill to much more substantial semi-respectable abodes at the top. Interspersed between all this teeming residential activity are the smoky small factories and dubious shop concerns where the locals scrape out a precarious living, and the pubs which give them succour. But take a closer look, and individuals begin to come into focus out of the murk: Jimmy Rolfe, a bit of a romantic wanderer, and a chancer, who always ends up back in Foveaux; Linnie Montague, who has had to be tough to survive, not knowing till she's nearly broken that her own rejection of warmth harmed her far more than anyone else ever could; Bramley Cornish, a believer in better things who is thwarted by his wish for the quiet life, and by love; their mothers, Mrs Montague and Mrs Cornish, about as different as could be, who are rival landladies with a constantly changing populace of needy boarders; Honest John Hutchison, local bigwig and occasional mayor, whose hunger for cash and influence, and willingness to cut corners, get him into very hot water; Old Mr Bross, the largest slum-landlord in Foveaux, who'd rather slash his own wrists than shoulder doing any repairs to his grimy houses; and an incredible gallery of colourful individuals and entrenched families flitting in and out of sight in the gritty streets of Foveaux. Kylie Tennant's extraordinary second novel is her first exploration of the city. Starting in 1912 and progressing deep into the 1930s, Tennant follows a myriad of storylines and characters with astonishing aplomb, slowly building up, with wit and empathy, a poetic portrait of a locale which makes a futile stab at hitting the heights, and very successfully plumbs the lows, of its times. And all the while she never forgets the simple humanity which graces so strikingly such a moving and funny picture.