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'Excellent... Harrowing, humane and brilliant.' - The Times (UK)

'Excellent... Harrowing, humane and brilliant.' - The Times (UK)

How breathtakingly close we are to lives that at first seem so far away.

From the civil rights struggle in the United States to the Nazi crimes against humanity in Europe, there are more stories than people passing each other every day on the bustling streets of every crowded city. Only some survive to become history.

Recently released from prison, Lamont Williams, an African American probationary janitor in a Manhattan hospital and father of a little girl he can't locate, strikes up an unlikely friendship with an elderly patient, a Holocaust survivor who had been a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

A few kilometres uptown, Australian historian Adam Zignelik, an untenured Columbia professor, finds both his career and his long-term romantic relationship falling apart. Emerging out of the depths of his own personal history, Adam sees, in a promising research topic suggested by an American World War II veteran, the beginnings of something that might just save him professionally and perhaps even personally.

As these two men try to survive in early twenty-first-century New York, history comes to life in ways neither of them could have foreseen. Two very different paths - Lamont's and Adam's - lead to one greater story as The Street Sweeper, in dealing with memory, love, guilt, heroism, the extremes of racism and unexpected kindness, spans the twentieth century to the present, and spans the globe from New York to Melbourne, Chicago to Auschwitz.

Epic in scope, this is a remarkable feat of storytelling.

Reviews

The Street Sweeper is a big book, a brave book, a humane and liberal book in a period of history when those values are being derided by conservatives of several schools

Don Anderson, Australian Book Review

...In heartbreaking detail, this emotional novel offers a fascinating insight into the best and worst of human nature, memory, racism and heroism. Perlman, an acclaimed Australian author, is fast developing a reputation as a modern literary master. And it is well deserved.

Madison Australia

A heartless doctor, a street sweeper, a stalled academic, an old man with a story to tell that outranks all our present day concerns, engage with one another in this spellbinding novel. Today we are too busy and too distracted to tell or hear a story, to find or be a listener with all the time in the world. Thus knowledge vanishes as memory fades and life comes to an end. This is a book to be read in a quiet place and slowly

Annabel Lawson, Australian Country Style

The Street Sweeper's fiction is grounded in facts, and facts of the most momentous kind

Don Anderson, Australian Book Review

This is absolutely the best fiction book I have read this year. I loved every minute of it even though at times it made me gasp for breath (to the extent that I was asked at the train station if I was OK). I can't get out of my head some of these images and even if these stories are not even remotely connected to my personal memories in some way they are now my personal memories. The narrative is gripping, the characters are moving but what I love the most is the sense of people (often quite ordinary people). Being part of history, making it into a living, breathing fabric of memories, is something we all have the responsibility of remembering and sharing, of making sure that "we tell everyone what happened there" and to these people so their unimaginable suffering, pain and heroism is never ever forgotten, is central. I also loved all the incredible interrelations between stories, the fact that the author was able to bring all these cultures, backgrounds and religions together, united in a simple human understanding of one another, while telling and sharing the stories about the great divide that was created by just the same kind of human beings. There is truly an amazing sense of connection in this book which really makes one walk away from the experience of reading it shaken but still very hopeful.

Anna O'Grady, Category Manager Books, LS Travel Retail Pacific

Wonderfully rich, engaging and multilayered.

Washington Post

An expertly told novel of life in immigrant America - and of the terrible events left behind in the old country... Perlman's long tale, spanning decades, is suspenseful and perfectly told in many voices, without a false note. It deals with big issues of memory, race, human fallibilities and the will to survive against the odds.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Street Sweeper, Elliot Perlman's monumental and, at times, mesmerizing novel, is a meditation of memory - and its relationship to history... [Here] Perlman burnishes his reputation as a masterful storyteller who captures the cadences of consciousness and conversation and the varieties and vagaries of cruelty, courage and compassion... You will, in all likelihood, find it unforgettable.

Jerusalem Post

Excellent...Harrowing, humane and brilliant.

The Times (UK)

Perlman deftly navigates... complicated waters, moving back and forth in time without having to take narrative responsibility for the course of history. In so doing, he brilliantly makes personal both the Holocaust and the civil rights movement, and crafts a moving and literate page-turner.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Humane, compelling and convincing... artfully constructed and well written.

Sunday Times (UK)

The connections are resonant and meaningful... in a novel that is both grandly conceived and minutely constructed... The Street Sweeper is an impressive literary achievement, complex in its organization, meticulous in its plotting and deeply satisfying in its emotional payoffs.

Wall Street Journal

The Australian novelist Elliot Perlman does what all good novelists do: reports on the trials of being human in a world that wishes to frustrate every good deed and punishes with consummate cruelty every sin, however slight ... Epic is a word that one must use carefully. But this is an epic, in scope and moral seriousness ... Perlman offers an affecting meditation on memory itself, on storytelling as an act of healing. Lamont and Zignelik, as characters, seem much less important than the terrifying stories they absorb.

The Guardian

This epic about racial persecution employs similar techniques [to Seven Types of Ambiguity] but scales up the ambition, suggesting that Perlman is gunning here for a career-defining third novel... The interleaved sequences set in Nazi Germany and Fifties America are so searingly potent ... As he depicts both the kindnesses and the unspeakable cruelties of the concentration camps, Perlman fleshes out his research with a moral and imaginative force that feels revelatory. ... at its best it demonstrates how history and fiction can converge to tell stories that cry out to be remembered.

The Telegraph (UK)

A big, bold international work with a piercing moral sense ... Striking and enlightening ... The novel illuminates the small acts of individual kindness, memory and compassion which must stand against the human capacity for cruelty and inhumanity.

Prospect (UK)

Perlman's story of modern New York is a big book in every sense. Huge in its scope, it covers two of the most searingly painful aspects of 20th century history: the Holocaust and the abuse of African-Americans' rights ... Perlman's greatest achievement though, is the sharply drawn New York world - from the slums of the Bronx to Columbia University, from Iranian immigrants to civil-rights lawyers. All are vividly brought to life in an often extremely moving book.

Readers Digest (UK)

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback

    9781741666175

    October 3, 2011

    Vintage Australia

    576 pages

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781742754543

    October 1, 2011

    Random House Australia

    576 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle AU
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play EBook AU
    • Kobo
  • Paperback

    9780143790938

    March 19, 2018

    Penguin

    576 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Awards and Recognition

  • ALS Gold Medal Award
    2011
    Shortlisted
    ALS Gold Medal Award
  • Miles Franklin Award
    2011
    Longlisted
    Miles Franklin Award
  • WA Premiers Literary Award
    2012
    Shortlisted
    WA Premiers Literary Award

Also by Elliot Perlman