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Sydney Bridge Upside Down

by David Ballantyne

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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532391,448 (3.56)11
Harry Baird lives with his mother, father and younger brother Cal in Calliope Bay, at the edge of the world. Summer has come, and those who can have left the bay for the allure of the far away city. Among them is Harry's mother, who has left behind a case of homemade ginger beer and a vague promise of return.… (more)
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» See also 11 mentions

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I wanted to love this book as I greatly admire Kate de Goldi who wrote the introduction and it is a favourite of hers. It could be described as a coming of age story but there is a dark element to this tale with no real uplift at the end.
The setting is Calliope Bay and the introduction informs us that this is actually Hicks Bay the northern most point of the East Cape of New Zealand and this explains a great deal. These communities are indeed remote and small. It also has the ruins of the freezing works which is the setting for many incidents in the story.
Harry Baird is the narrator. I am guessing his age to be 12-13 years. The time lapse is the summer holidays and Harry's mother has gone to the city for a break. Harry is left in the care of his father, Frank, an able amputee, along with his younger brother Cal. The book introduces the various members of the community. A surprise guest, Harry's cousin, Caroline, is sent to stay with them. As the story is narrated from Harry's perspective, there is much alluded to in the story which he obviously doesn't understand and the reader is more aware of the truth of many situations than he is.
Maybe this is a fairly accurate portrayal of an isolated community. The adults appear united and supportive as one would hope in these communities but they are not fully aware of what is going on... ( )
  HelenBaker | Mar 6, 2017 |
Recently rereleased after its original publication in 1968, this book is considered a classic in New Zealand. Harry lives with his one-legged Dad and little brother Cal in Calliope Bay - a small town at what seems like the end of the earth. Harry's Mum has gone to the city, and continues to delay her return, making excuses. Meanwhile a cousin comes to stay in Calliope Bay and Harry is smitten by her and becomes very protective and jealous of her attention. Harry's summer began with days of fun and children's games with Cal and his mate Dibbs, but it ends in confusion, loss and tragedy, when Harry is forced to grow up way too soon. ( )
  judylou | Jul 11, 2010 |
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There are many ways to describe Sydney Bridge (in our house, the words “sydney bridge” are always the book, not the splendid piece of Australian engineering): a coming-of-age story, gothic anti-romance, ruined-pastoral thriller, family tragedy. It has been variously assessed as proletarian fiction, young adult fiction and post-provincial fiction. It is all those things, of course, and is also the pre-eminent example of slaughterhouse fiction – an abandoned meat-works is both the central symbol of the novel and the site of the story’s most troubling events.

For me, the most piquant description of the book was Evans’ own. Sydney Bridge Upside Down, he said when introducing it to us, is the great, and unread, New Zealand novel. Merely picking up the book to read it, then, was instant admission to a select literary community. Actually, reading it was a beautiful and sinister and unforgettable experience.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ballantyne, Davidprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
De Goldi, Katesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Harry Baird lives with his mother, father and younger brother Cal in Calliope Bay, at the edge of the world. Summer has come, and those who can have left the bay for the allure of the far away city. Among them is Harry's mother, who has left behind a case of homemade ginger beer and a vague promise of return.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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