Review: The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly

Title: The Blue Mile

Author: Kim Kelly

Published: Pan Macmillan May 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from May 29 to June 01, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The expanse of the glittering Sydney Harbour, known as The Blue Mile, is not all that separates Eoghan (Yo) O’Keenan and Olivia Greene. An unskilled Irish labourer escaping a poverty stricken, abusive home with his young sister in tow and the daughter of a Viscount and talented costumière making her name in Sydney society, seem an unlikely couple but a chance encounter in the Royal Botanical Gardens forges an unconventional and turbulent romance. Set against a period of great celebration and Depression, Kim Kelly’s The Blue Mile is an engaging story of life and love.

Beginning in late 1929, the story of The Blue Mile unfolds through the alternate first person perspectives of Eoghan and Olivia.

Though The Blue Mile is definitely a love story, it is very low key. Olivia and Eoghan’s attraction to each other is immediate and mutual, but the couple spend hardly any time alone together over the course of the novel. With the lack of emotional intimacy between the pair I found didn’t really feel their connection even though I believed in the issues that divided them, including their differences in class, wealth and faith.

What I really loved about this story was the historical background to the novel, which is well integrated into the story. Set during the latter construction period of the Sydney Harbour Bridge I was fascinated by Yo’s experience as a rivet catcher. The building of the ‘Coathanger’ was an extraordinary feat, taking 1,400 men, six million hand driven rivets and 53,000 tonnes of steel to build the the world’s largest steel arch bridge over a period of eight years (1924-1932).
The period was also a time of social unrest in New South Wales due to high levels of unemployment as a result of Britain calling in war loans, and political scandal, when the Premier, Jack Lang, was dismissed from government by the governor-general for his ‘socialist’ leanings. The economic and political fluctuations of the state have an impact on both Olivia and Yo, though in different ways.

Just days before I read this novel I actually had dinner at The Rag and and Famish, a North Sydney pub mentioned several times in the story, with some fellow book bloggers, and that connection gave me a little thrill each time. Though I liked the protagonists of The Blue Mile, it was the period detail and the physical setting that appealed to me the most.


The Blue Mile is available to purchase from

Pan Macmillan I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU I Amazon US


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jo @ Booklover Book Reviews
    Jun 08, 2014 @ 10:01:50

    Been looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one Shelleyrae. Bridge building has such symbolism for society, of skill, hard work and aspirational achievement. How wonderful having been to a location featured in the book so soon before reading too.



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