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Harry, Louise and their illegitimate baby are trapped in the poverty and violence of the Sydney slums where Harry lives by his fists, collecting debts for a bookie, because he's never had the chance to live any other way. When a neighbour, Prue, befriends them opportunity comes out of a violent tragedy but it will be how Harry responds to a threat that will define him as a man. More
The first book in the Deepwater series, an Australian historical saga set in early 20th century Australia where the Sydney docks were a place of poverty, bigotry and ignorance. The Catholic Church and the appearance of respectability ruled the lives of ordinary people. The men worked on the docks for little, while the women had babies and worked as well, doing what they could to make ends meet. Women eked out the housekeeping to last until their man's next payday. Children went barefoot to school and wore patched up dresses and shorts to Sunday school. On Sunday the family went to Church where priests delivered sermons on chastity and obedience to the Church. While being treated as an unpaid servant by her mother, Louise, the daughter of a boarding house keeper, becomes pregnant. She and her lover Harry want to marry but are prevented by her parents' bigotry for Harry is an orphan, born illegitimate and to Louise's hypocritical parents, a social pariah. They attack and berate him while hiding their own secrets. From a young child Harry raised himself on the streets and now lives by his fists, collecting debts for a bookie. He's good at his job and has a reputation for being a thug. He does what's necessary and has little sympathy for the customers who drink and gamble away money that should be supporting their wives and children. After their baby's birth Harry and Louise manage to obtain her parents' consent to their marriage with help from Louise's uncle who sees his sister, Louise's mother for what she is. The tension between what is acceptable behaviour and what is right escalates and results in tragedy that affects Louise and threatens her fragile respectability. She finds that transforming a life takes more than a ceremony. The violence Harry metes out comes back to haunt him and instils fear in Louise as she faces the reality of how Harry provides for them. Although she's young, inexperienced and completely dependant she loves Harry and is under the spell of their passion which leaves her blind to the experience of other women who live with husbands who abuse not only them but their children. The kindness and generosity of their neighbour, Prudence, who suffers more than most, opens the way to another life for Harry and Louise. The story moves from Sydney to the New England Tablelands where the grass is deep and the sheep are nearly as fat as the wool cheques. Here life is very different but violence pursues all of them to their and it is Harry's choice in the face of a threat that will define him as a man. A cast of original characters move through the streets of a Sydney since lost where SP bookies like Harry's boss Snow plied their trade, cops were on the take, priests drank whiskey with their tea and children played cricket in the street before bedtime. The contrast between the slums and life on the New England couldn't be more starkly highlighted as Louise and Harry see the possibility of a world.