The Sparrows of Edward Street Books

The Sparrows of Edward Street Books

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The Sparrows of Edward Street is a fictionalised account of acclaimed Australian writer Elizabeth Stead's experiences in a 1940s post-war Sydney Housing Commission Camp with her mother and younger sister.

With Elizabeth's cast of charming characters and her vivid descriptions of the challenges of camp life, The Sparrows of Edward Street is a wonderfully witty and entertaining retelling of this little-known but very important period of Australia's history.

It's November 1948 and the widowed Hanora Sparrow and her teenage daughters, Aria and Rosy, have fallen on tough times. When they move into the only place available to them at the time - a housing commission camp on the outskirts of Sydney - their spirits are low and their prospects few.

As I approached Edward Street a sudden swirl of wind created a willy-willy, a corkscrew of dusty air and dead leaves that I could walk through, even spin through if I wanted to, but I le" it alone and walked around it. A pity. Anywhere else on earth a willy-willy would have been an updraught of air light as feathers, a thing of magic - a sort of joyous madness that might leave a mysterious feeling of happiness for a short time - but in Edward Street it looked like a twist of smoke from a Charles Dickens roof top: ochre and black and thick, rising from one of his workhouse fires.

While Hanora Sparrow copes with her days in the camp via various pharmaceutical offerings and Rosy - 'The Colonial Royal' - with nothing other than indignity, the spirited Aria rises immediately to the challenge of keeping the family together in such trying circumstances. With her endless curiosity and her lively sense of humour, Aria draws the Sparrow women into close friendships with other camp residents including Mr Sparkle, Mr Gardiner, Mr Biddle and the women of the 'laundry circle'. Aria also provides for her family through her work as a photographic model in the city.

As ordinary as the studio was, I often did feel like Cinderella sprinting from the palace after midnight to a slum witha fireplace, soot and brooms.

By February 1949 the Sparrow women are well and truly ensconsed in camp life, but Aria continues - despite thesetbacks - to move towards their eventual salvation.


The Sparrows of Edward Street is a wonderful novel about family relationships, about overcoming hardship and thestrength people can gain by pulling together to beat the odds…This is a story told with great humour, you will neverlook at a sparrow in the same way again.' (Five stars) Australian Bookseller & Publisher

Stead says about the book, 'I wrote The Sparrows of Edward Street mainly from personal experience but much of it is fictionalised because of the loss of my memory about this unfortunate time in our lives and the lives of others.'I also wrote The Sparrows of Edward Street as fiction so as to not offend former 'inmates' with incorrect omissions or additions. I relied on research and based two of the characters on letters written by former inmates provided to me by the local historical society. Any unexpected discoveries? Yes, always!'


Elizabeth Stead was born in Sydney during the great tomato glut of 1932 and despite this being the cheapest andmost consumed food at the time, they remain Elizabeth's fruit of choice. Because her father was a Stead she became a member of a family of creativity and eccentricity bordering on minor madness. Elizabeth is Christina Stead's niece. It is true that she was inspired by her grandfather whose imagination was endless but she was also inspired by a ballet and music-loving aunt, Kitty, who also wrote poetry.

Elizabeth has modelled, acted, danced, sung and is a writer. She has written for radio, for NIDA and was one of the first to be selected for a NIDA playwright studio in 1972.

Despite her 79 years, she remains curious and is a keen and wise observer of planet earth and all who sail in her.Elizabeth supports both Australian rugby union and league (Parramatta!) and tennis and golf. She is an atheist who has worked for her fellow Australians as a volunteer for over 40 years - not at all the kind of atheist described by Cardinal Pell.

The Sparrows of Edward Street is her fifth novel.

Author: Elizabeth Stead
ISBN: 978 0 7022 3875 8
RRP: $32.95