Set in Melbourne in the 1986 this novel traces the experiences of seventeen year old, Tom Button, when he leaves home in a country town to live in he city. His aunt had recently died and he has the use of her small flat in Nicholson Street Fitzroy. The block of flats, Cairo, was built in 1935. Tom is soon befriended by musician, Max Cheever, and his wife Sally and their close circle of artists and poets, all of them much older than he is.
This is a right of passage book where the naive Tom must learn to cope in this alien, exciting Bohemian lifestyle including the danger of being drawn into the schemes of the older group members, including the plan to steal a painting from the art gallery. Tom learns about friendship, love and betrayal as well as how to cope in the 'real' world. The descriptions of living in the city of Melbourne and Fitzroy in the 1980s form a major part of the book.
Cairo flats do exist and there are a number of links online providing information about them.
The Cairo: romance and the minimum flat
Art deco buildings
Fitzroy history: the Cairo flats on Nicholson Street
Cairo flats model - Melbourne Museum
Theft of the Weeping Woman