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Top 5 Must Read Novels Set in Sydney

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by Barry J (subscribe)
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Published August 3rd 2018
Look Books? Love Sydney? Read On
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Amid romantic adventures, thrilling mysteries, gritty crime and visionary sci-fi, stories set on our beaches, backstreets and backyards offer new insights while tickling our nostalgia.

These five novels set in Sydney invite new memories for locals and inspiration for the first-time visitor.

Beneath the Southern Cross,The Dying Trade,The Harp in the South,Looking for Alibrandi,For Love Alone,top 5 sydney novels,best sydney novels,novels set sydney,classic sydney novels,top classic sydney books
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Beneath the Southern Cross by Judy Nunn

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Beneath the Southern Cross (by Random House)


While Alf Stewart still wants to "stone the flamin' crows!" on the long-running soap opera, Home and Away, Judy Nunn has left Summer Bay and become an internationally successful author.

Beneath the Southern Cross injects new life into the myths, legends and achievements of Australia's earliest European settlers.

From humble beginnings, Thomas Kendall arrives in Sydney, exiled to 'Old Sydney Town' as punishment for a burglary conviction. Enduring violence, disease and poverty, he starts a family, creating a flourishing legacy.

Centuries later, his descendants build on his pioneering success in a thriving Australia but a dusty journal holds dark secrets.


The Dying Trade by Peter Corris

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The Dying Trade (by Fawcett)


Introducing Cliff Hardy, the archetype grizzled, world-weary private detective. The hard-drinking, chain-smoking ex-boxer digs through the darkest alleyways of our city, bumping into a colourful cast of volatile characters, each with secrets, desires and the occasional outbursts of passionate romance and violence.

The Dying Trade is the first in series of 44 novels featuring Cliff's adventures with clean cops, dirty cops, crooked politicians, fast-dealing executives, and union bosses. His clients are often the ordinary locals caught in the schemes of these powerbrokers, struggling with infidelity and greedy squabbles over bundles of cash.

Read at least one of his fast-paced mystery thrillers to experience the side of a big city we hope we don't star in.

In 2017, Peter put down his crime-writing pen due to diabetes, finishing the Cliff Hardy series after 37 years with Win, Lose or Draw.


The Harp in the South by Ruth Park

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The Harp in the South (by Penguin)


While John Steinbeck tackled social issues in America, Ruth Park matched him with this raw tale an Irish family struggling in Surry Hills. 70 years after it was published, The Harp in the South still "bludgeons the heart, brain and conscience of the reader".

The novel exposed the lives of the inner-city poor as some sought God while too many sought the bottle, drowning in booze.

The plight of women during the 1940s, grappling with issues of abortion and physical violence, is striking when most narratives from the period focused on the male perspective. It also reaches beyond the European gaze, with Chinese and Aboriginal residents featuring.

Although the most dramatic scenes are shocking, this Australian classic, it remains relevant as we still confront the same challenges.


Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

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Looking for Alibrandi (by Penguin)


The high school recommended reading list won't appeal to every student but Looking for Alibrandi has been a favourite for decades. It's the story of an Italian-Australian school girl and the issues she faces to find the best in Australia while pushing against the traditions of her Italian-born parents.

Even if the reader hasn't had to negotiate a cultural clash, they'll keep turning the pages to see the outcome of class, money and status comparisons in the public vs. private school debate.

17-year-old Josephine's relationship with her single mother, who gave birth to her at that age, is a clever portrayal into the dynamics of a single parent family.


For Love Alone by Christina Stead

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For Love Alone (by Faber)


Literary legend, Christina Stead, writes about Teresa Hawkins, desperately searching for love in Sydney and London. She finds fulfilment only after a series of rocky relationships threaten to break her spirit.

Her encounters in Watsons Bay, Christina's former home, will resonate with residents and the army of weekend walkers in the suburb.

Romantic trials are often a cliché, banished to the pages of trashy Mills and Boon paperbacks, but For Love Alone strips any fantasy from the tale, where heartache is rarely cured with chocolate and roses.

Beneath the Southern Cross,The Dying Trade,The Harp in the South,Looking for Alibrandi,For Love Alone,top 5 sydney novels,best sydney novels,novels set sydney,classic sydney novels,top classic sydney books
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Which novel do you pick up when nostalgia for Sydney hits?


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Your Comment
I've read 3 of these so 2 go on my reading list. Thanks Barry, great list of good books set in Sydney.
by Maria-MPG Narratives (score: 2|763) 1328 days ago
Barry, have you read any of the Les Norton books by Robert G Barrett... there are 13 of them?
by Annie (score: 0|9) 1324 days ago
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