Sunday 29 January 2012

29. My Australian Story: Sydney Harbour Bridge by Vashti Farrer

My Australian Story: Sydney Harbour Bridge by Vashti Ferrer
Published February 2012 Scholastic

From the publisher:

'I said to Mum that the sky-workers must have really good heads for heights, but she said, Either that, or they have a family to feed and will do anything for a job that pays.' It is 1932 and Sydney has hit hard times but the construction of a bridge that will reach across the harbour is setting spirits soaring. Both Alice and Billy tell the story of building the spectacular Harbour Bridge which will link the north shore to the working class suburbs of the south and unify a separated city.

The My Australian Story series of books (the series was originally called My Story) look back on Australia's history from the point of view of a child or children writing diaries about what they see going on around them.

This book is set during the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with work starting in 1923, with the demolition of houses and businesses to make way for the northern approach to it's opening 1932.  During this time the world is hit by the Depression, so the book is just as much about the hardships faced for families at this time, as it is about the building of the bridge.

We have two diaries, one from Alice who lives on the North Shore, whose father is gainfully employed as an engineer and Billy who lives in the Rocks with his mother and at the beginning of the book, an unemployed father.  We really get to see two different experiences of the same time in history. Billy's Dad gets a job working on the bridge, so we get a lot of insight into the nuts and bolts from his, nut we also get a social commentary from the both of them as they reflect on what is going on in NSW.

The only thing that bugged me while reading this, was also the thing that made the book interesting.  The historical facts that are strewn throughout the diary entries were interesting, as I said, but it didn't feel natural. I didn't really believe that a 13 year old girl would feel the need to comment on the issues of public service wages or the interest rates of our loan agreement with Britain.

It was a really interesting read.  I must admit to not really thinking that much about the era in which the bridge was built and what that meant for the state of NSW.  I also didn't think of the many people who lost their houses (some with no ) when they cleared the land for the approach.  So, for me, I learnt something, so that makes it a winner in my book.

Who will like this book: Boys age 10+
Read it if you like: Australian History

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