Western Australian Writing Review: Money Street by J.K. Ewers

First of all, this book is so old it doesn't even have an ISBN. It also doesn't have a cover image or a title on the front, only on the spine in gold embossed lettering.  Published by Patersons press in 1948 (in Australia, 1933 if you were in England), Ewers' account of life on a poor but happy street was one of the first fictional portraits of metropolitan Perth.  It continues as one of few!

Elman Day, a veteran of World War One with a stump for a leg, stumbles across Money Street on his way home one day and is captivated by the adopted daughter of the street, a young girl named Betty.  He is soon embroiled in a number of sup-plots, including a farcical attempt at setting up two of the street's older inhabitants on a date, the loss of a prized racehorse, and a rivalry for the affections of Betty.  At first it seems as if each tale, while amusing, has little to do with any other, but in time the author shows his hand and ties the plot together, if at times unconvincingly. The prose style is simplistic and mimics British speech; characters say things like "Golly!" and "Gosh!" so often you may think that you have accidentally borrowed an Enid Blyton tome from the library instead, except for the adult themes of drinking, gambling and prostitution.

I found this book a chore to read, as the pace remained the same throughout the entire novel, including during fight scenes and bushfires.  While the characters' quirks and idiosyncrasies were sweet, sweetness alone does not make a novel.  The ending, without giving anything away, frankly came out of nowhere.

However, as an example of early Western Australian writing, the book is as to be expected, and contains those common themes of horse-racing and back-blocks humour identified by Richard Nile in his book The Making of the Australian Literary Imagination.  Many Australian National myths also rear their heads; The ANZAC legend, love of the empire, the bush and the lost child myth.

Read this book if you are a literary historian, but not if you want a good read.

One out of five skinny racehorses.