exhibits an intimacy with place that is built through local knowledge and the regular, routine movement through the spaces of one’s life. For Nora, the narrator and protagonist, it is the locus of the social encounter and emotional intensity on which the book’s narrative depends: I chased them down Russell Street to Jimmy’s in the city. They were sitting at a table with Willy and Paddy, who had their backs to the door […] They were glad to see me and I sat down with them to eat.
When we left the restaurant we walked up Russell Street, strung across the pavement, Gracie riding on Jack’s shoulders.
David Ley’s work on urban transformation outlined that, ‘one of the strongest statistical predictors in the gentrification of post-industrial inner urban areas is a “first wave” of artists’. Today, Melbourne’s inner north is still associated with this lifestyle.
Moving through the city’s streets or riding through Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy just like Nora has become a reference point for contemporary creative practitioners in their portrayal of this part of Melbourne.
The city Garner writes about isn’t only reflected in her writing.
A GENTLEMAN whose premises were infested by a large breed of sparrows, said they were birds of no principle.Along with their shared housing, Garner’s characters inhabit spaces closely identified with inner-city culture and occupations in the creative industries: Gracie and I went to the theatre and stayed there from seven in the evening until two in the morning.I danced […] Through the crowd I could glimpse Bill way up at the other end of the theatre, juggling three silver balls, his short dark head dipping and bobbing gracefully […] the theatre was full of people I like and loved and whose work was joyful to me.Most especially, in this book, the ordinary life of women.’ Reading against the grain of appraisals such as Woods’ that focus on subjective experiences of gestures to a changing urban landscape in which the novel’s radical voice folded into increasingly normalised practices of counter-cultural inhabitation and property ownership in cities. is set in a counter-cultural community of the mid 1970s that emerged from the inner-city suburbs of North Melbourne, Carlton, Fitzroy and North Fitzroy – now known collectively and colloquially as the inner north.Nora moves back and forth along Lygon, Brunswick, Rathdowne, Napier and Peel Streets.Sophie Cunningham refers to it in her extended literary essay , when she writes, ‘[a]s Garner has done some years earlier, I used to ride through the Edinburgh Gardens to the hundred-year-old Fitzroy Pool, a place where the water is not just deep but, as the sign says, has also been folded into marketing vocabularies for the affluent suburbs in Melbourne’s inner north.The locations in the book now have some of the most expensive property in Melbourne. Just as he made his wish the knocking stopped, and his wife opened the door. The author never really says, but one can assume that he wished he had never made his second wish. White found the monkey’s paw and made his third and final wish.I put my arm round Willy’s waist and he laid his over my shoulder […] Our boots beat the footpath in rhythm, and we walked back to Carlton in the cold spring night.At the time, Garner’s focus on the domestic and on the geography of a local urban milieu was original in the field of Australian fiction: a Melbourne author writing about her community in the areas in which she lived her daily life.