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Ten Great Books set in Sydney

10th January 2021

Sydney is the latest city we cover in our ‘Ten Great Books’ series… Ten Great Books set in Sydney. Sydney, capital of New South Wales and one of Australia’s largest cities, is best known for its harbourfront Sydney Opera House and its arched Harbour Bridge.

‘More nuts than the Bridge’. Expression referring to someone who was thought to be ‘nuts’, or a bit crazy, the reference being to the nuts and bolts used in building the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Ten Great Books set in SydneyShadows of Olive Trees by Susanne Gervay

Before the #MeToo movement, there was the 1970s and three girls – Tessa. Athena, Jenny looking for love, best friends, and what they want to be. Breaking traditional roles, there are challenges from parents, the church, school. But there’s college and new freedoms, except they can be dangerous.

A story of women’s empowerment set against the background of the emerging women’s movement, this is a story that has relevance today.

‘Reminding me of Looking for Alibrandi. Gervay gets better with every book.’ Spectrum Sydney Morning Herald.

‘As far as I know, Gervay is the first writer to reinterpret the lived experience of young women in the seventies for an audience of readers today – which in the light of recent media debates focusing the perceived differences between older and young feminists is a relevant and timely. …. The novel makes a distinctive contribution to the body of creative work. University of Technology, Sydney

Ten Great Books set in SydneyThirty Days in Sydney by Peter Carey

Subtitled “a wildly distorted account” it is pretty much that: an oblique, poignant, entertaining and rather candid look at the city. Using his prize-winning novelist’s eye for telling detail, and the objectivity of the relative outsider (Carey has spent the last decade in New York, and he hails from Melbourne), the author shows that Sydney is not just about sun, sports, gay sex and Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s also about endangered wildlife, painful history, militant agnosticism and, above all, a wilful, dogged, brave, funny, cantankerous citizenry. As Carey trots around town we get to meet a few of these hard-bitten “diggers”: their individuality and orneriness are deftly sketched.

Jacaranda Wife by Kendra Smith

When a double dip recession hits along with a tax bill, most people tighten their belts, cancel the summer holiday and look for the two-for-one offers. But not Katie Parkes. The home-loving mother of two from London finds herself tightening her seatbelt on a plane to Australia, where her husband has been sent to save their financial bacon. And, she realises, it might just be what they need to save their marriage…

Trouble is, she doesn’t much like heat, can’t swim properly, hates spiders and finds herself further outside the M25 than is strictly necessary. Then there’s the Sydney yummy mummy with a cleavage you’d loose your car keys in eyeing up her husband, bouts of homesickness – and a few deadly spiders. Taking the bull by the horns (or at least pulling on an old Speedo) she tackles her fear of the ocean first. Find out how Katie copes in her new country – does it provide the spark to ignite her marriage, or send the whole thing up in smoke…?

Ten Great Books set in SydneyOz by Bobbie Darbyshire

Mark’s life is a mess. He’s been cheating on his wife, fears his marriage is over, but can’t bear to leave his boisterous 7-year-old daughter, Matilda. Just when he thinks things can’t get worse, his mother is killed in a road accident. Shocked and grieving, he decamps to her house, where he uncovers a secret that will turn his life upside-down and send him and his daughter on a whirlwind search for the truth.

Shell by Kristina Olsson

Sydney, 1960s: newspaper reporter Pearl Keogh has been relegated to the women’s pages as punishment for her involvement in the anti-war movement, and is desperate to find her two young brothers before they are conscripted.

Newly arrived from Sweden, Axel Lindquist is set to work as a sculptor on the Sydney Opera House. Haunted by his father’s acts in the Second World War, he seeks solace in his attempts to create a unique piece that will do justice to the vision of Jørn Utzon, the controversial architect of the Opera House’s construction.

Pearl and Axel’s lives orbit and collide, as they both struggle in the eye of the storm. This is a soaring, optimistic novel of art and culture, and of love and fate.

A beautifully crafted, spellbinding story of love, loss and identity, set in the shadow of the Vietnam War, for readers who loved All the Light We Cannot See and The Goldfinch

The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

The Vietnam War rages overseas, but back at home, in a year that begins with the hanging of one man and ends with the drowning of another, eleven schoolgirls embrace their own chilling history when their teacher abruptly goes missing on a field trip. Who was the mysterious poet they had met in the Garden? What actually happened in the seaside cave that day? And most important — who can they tell about it? In beautifully shimmering prose, Ursula Dubosarsky reveals how a single shared experience can alter the course of young lives forever. Part gripping thriller, part ethereal tale of innocence lost, The Golden Day is a poignant study of fear and friendship, and of what it takes to come of age with courage.

The Red Door by Rosa Fedele

It is 1983 and the new owner of the beautiful old Sydney mansion ‘Rosalind’ begins to believe she is being watched by the mysterious resident in Number Three, a reclusive man who happens to share his name with two teenage sisters, victims of a sinister and brutal murder. Her peace of mind slowly erodes as a fascination with the unsolved crime becomes obsession – consuming her life, shaking relationships with her newfound friends and leaving a trail of devastation.
This is a spellbinding tale, as much a mystery novel with an immigrant’s tragedy woven into its centre, as a portrait of women who carry dark secrets but also persevere through the strength of friendship. The Red Door will take hold of your imagination and never let go.

Follow the Money by Peter Corris

When beautiful young women kiss you on the cheek you know you’re over the hill, but I didn’t really feel like that. As Wesley said, I still had the moves.’ Cliff Hardy may still have the moves but he’s in trouble. The economy’s tanking and he’s been conned by an unscrupulous financial advisor and lost everything he’s got. Cliff only knows one way, and that’s forward, so he’s following the money trail. It’s a twisted road that leads him down deep into Sydney’s underbelly, into the territory of big money, bent deals, big yachts and bad people. Cliff’s in greater danger than ever before, but he’s as tenacious as a dog with a bone.

The Beach Volcano by Nigel Featherstone

After years of estrangement, Canning Albury, a revered and irreverent singer-songwriter, returns home to celebrate his father’s eightieth birthday. His welcome is mixed, at best. But Canning has made the trip for more than just a glass of Pol Roger and an eyeful of Sydney Harbour at sunset. He carries a secret about his family’s murky and uncharted past—a secret that could be explosive. The Beach Volcano is a fearless exploration of life’s many compromises, and the burdens we bear for those we love.

Echoes of the Heart by Alyssa J Montgomery

She betrayed him and left him to be with another. Now that she’s alone again, nothing is going to stop him from coming for her.

Australian media tycoon Jake Formosa does not believe in forgiving…or forgetting. So when he discovers that Amanda — the woman who once broke his heart — is newly widowed, he immediately enacts his revenge. Jake is intent on making Amanda remember him, and making her suffer for what she did. He will leave her broken and alone, and finally have his closure.

But Amanda is not the sweet girl that Jake remembers, and her life is far from perfect. As the web of lies surrounding her begins to unravel, Jake finds himself once again ensnared. Can he learn to overlook the past and risk his heart again?

Hope you enjoy the selection. Any and all comments welcome in the box below!

Tony for the TripFiction team

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021