Friday, 20 March 2020

Book Review: Symphony for the Man by Sarah Brill

Symphony for the Man
Sarah Brill

Publisher: Spinifex Press 
Publication date: March 2020
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 256
RRP: $29.95 AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher  

1999. Winter. Bondi. Harry’s been on the streets so long he could easily forget what time is. So Harry keeps an eye on it. Every morning. Then he heads to the beach to chat with the gulls. Or he wanders through the streets in search of food, clothes, Jules. When the girl on the bus sees him, lonely and cold in the bus shelter that he calls home, she thinks about how she can help. She decides to write a symphony for him.

So begins a poignant and gritty tale of homelessness and shelter, of the realities of loneliness and hunger, and of the hopes and dreams of those who often go unnoticed on our streets. This is the story of two outcasts – one a young woman struggling to find her place in an alien world, one an older man seeking refuge and solace from a life in tatters. It is also about the transformative power of care and friendship, and the promise of escape that music holds.


I’m finding it hard to put my thoughts about this beautiful book into words.
Set in the winter of 1999 when the streets of Sydney were being cleaned up for the coming Olympics.

Symphony for the Man is a beautifully written story about a homeless man, living in a bus shelter in the seaside suburb of Bondi, and a young woman, an introvert, lacking direction in her life.

The woman see harry asleep in the bus shelter and wonders what she can do for him. She wants to do something that no one else has done. She decides to write a symphony for him.

I loved how Brill portrayed Harry’s thoughts. Every word was so real and utterly believable, from Harry’s compulsive clock watching every morning to his interactions with other homeless men and care worker Brian.
I felt more invested in Harry’s story than I did in the unnamed young woman. Although I did enjoy her growth once she had a purpose given to her by Harry, her life changed, she changed.

In this nuanced story Brill gives us the human side to homelessness and shows that there is compassion everywhere in the small acts of kindness that people preform everyday. Like the Vietnamese restaurant that gives Harry food after closing, the librarian that offers shelter and comfort, the cafe worker who without question gives Harry a coffee and Brian the care worker who trolls the streets at night looking out for the homeless never expecting a thanks.

Sparkplug Films have optioned the film rights for the book and I would love to see this on the screen. That closing scene would be amazing! There is plenty to be sad about in this story but there is also so much to take heart from.
If you have every passed a homeless man on the streets and wondered at their circumstances this is the read for you.

*Note: Must be read whilst listening to Beethoven’s Eroica.


My rating   4/5

photo credit: Spinifex Press
Sarah Brill grew up in Perth and began writing at the age of 15. She initially focused on playwrighting but also wrote for film and radio. She attended four National Young Playwrights Workshops before graduating to the National Playwrights Conference in 1994 
Her first novel Glory which dealt with anorexia was published by Spinifex Press in 2002. After the birth of her children Sarah became interested in sustainability and permaculture. In 2017 Sarah completed a Masters of Sustainable Built Environment and currently works in organics diversion. Sarah lives in Sydney with her partner and three sons. Symphony for the Man is her second novel. 

This review is part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie Author Challenge 
and the Australian Women Writers challenge


1 comment:

  1. I do like the sound of this, what a great review, thanks for bringing this one to my attention.