Succession is the final book of The Sandstone Trilogy, in which the family saga of John Leary is concluded.
The story focusses on the winning of a contract for a vast building project, a multi-storey hotel and on the relationships and activities of the young Leary family (now blended, in the modern parlance) with Leary’s second marriage to Catherine and her son Brendan coming not the mix.
The many insights into the way the building industry developed in Sydney in the latter part of the19th century will be of particular interest to history buffs. Michael Beashel speaks with authority on this subject, coming from a building industry background himself.
Social and industrial change were characteristics of this period in Sydney’s history and these are played out in the novel through the family dramas and professional rivalries explored in the story.
Matters as diverse as class divisions, the introduction and growth of the union movement, fire and other building safety standards, the beginning of the use of steel-frame structures (as opposed to brick) and gambling addiction are woven into this tale, as we see the older Leary considering the future of his empire. Michael Beashel shows an obvious affection for his book people, warts and all, and enjoys the exploration of their interactions and the resolution of their challenges.
Taking us through weddings and a funeral, love won and lost and won again, the birth of children, misadventure, illness and fallings out, the author leaves us with a satisfactory solution to the dilemma of succession and a picture of family life in another time not entirely foreign to our own experience. Indeed, it is the universality of the issues raised that gives currency to the novel.
Pleasingly, the dear uncle figure, Jerry, will star in the next book from Michael Beashel’s pen.
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