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In the sweltering summer of 1900, young wharf labourer Patrick O'Reilly is down on his luck in the slums of Sydney and homesick for Tralee. When a deadly outbreak of plague descends on the city, O'Reilly's daydreaming mind is miles away – in the golden hair and kindly, confident air of a girl called Rosie Hughes.
Just as he's wondering why any girl would want a no-hoper like him, opportunity knocks with the offer of a job as a rat catcher working for the city's Plague Department, containing the spread of disease. But the job will bring him a lot more than a pay rise and a swift education on traps and poisons.
In the Public Lending Library, on the top floor of the Queen Victoria Building, above the bustling centre of Sydney, he comes face-to-face with a legendary rat called Old Scratch who will change the way he understands himself and the world forever.
'Drawn from Kim Kelly's own trove of Irish-Australian family lore, The Rat Catcher is a mischievous, fast-paced fable told with her trademark compassion, a sharp eye on the epic in the ordinary, and an irrepressible love for life, in all its marvellous forms."
'A charming tale, told with sparkling humour reminiscent of Peter Carey, and a biting commentary on poverty, too – on who bears the costs of plague in pre-federation Sydney.' – Alison Booth
'Kim Kelly has captured the eccentricities, poverty and hardships of the tenement and slum dwellers of those times with a deft and respectful touch. The Rat Catcher is a story of hope, love and kindness during the hardest of times. It will charm you, intrigue you and make you smile.'" Mary-Lou Stephens, author of The Last of the Apple Blossom (HarperCollins 2021