In the industrial city of Newcastle, New South Wales, lies a powerful firm that dominates the town. It is here that Dymphna Cusack sets a dramatic tale of family disunion, feminine rivalries, soldiers' lusts and lovers' ecstasies.
As the horror of the Second World War comes home to Australia with the attack on Darwin, an up-and-coming steel executive returns to Newcastle. His ambitious wife seeks a way to distance him from his unsuitable family and advance her social standing. His two brothers - a union man and a merchant sailor - are now an embarrassment.
The three brothers begin to grow further apart as the demands of the war, family conflict and their different beliefs pull them in separate directions. And Newcastle, and society, is changing fast as well - as women have to work, and American sailors have to party.
An unusual and fascinating portrait of urban Australians living with the peril of war, and the passion and heartbreak that can result.
The playwright and novelist Ellen Dymphna Cusack, born in 1902, graduated from the University of Sydney in 1925. Despite being of fragile health, she taught in schools across country NSW for almost 20 years. She published her first novel, Jungfrau, in 1936.
Cusack's first literary collaboration - Pioneers on Parade (1939) - was with Miles Franklin. After retiring, she wrote Come in Spinner (1951) with Florence James, which dwelt on controversial issues, such as prostitution and abortion, and was an immediate sensation. It was finally published unabridged in 1988, and became an ABC TV series in 1989.
After the war, Cusack travelled through Europe, China and Russia for 20 years with her partner Norman Freehill, a journalist and member of the Communist Party. She wrote nine more novels - including Southern Steel (1953), Picnic Races (1962), Black Lightning (1964) and The Half-Burnt Tree (1969) - and several plays, before her death in