Jean Sharp grew up in Mayfield in the shadow of the BHP steelworks.
Her lifespan stretched from the steelworks' beginning and almost to its end.
As Jean grew older and her marriage broke down, she became increasingly depressed.
Her son, filmmaker Stephen Wallace, encouraged her to write down her memories to come to terms with her past. She had spoken many times of her troubled childhood in Mayfield and her conflicted relationship with her mother.
The book is a snapshot of an era that recalls big and small events of 20th century life: school during World War I, the growth of Mayfield and Newcastle, domestic and social life and work as a midwife in the slums of Sydney.
Stephen, who directed films in which Bryan Brown and and Russell Crowe had their first roles, made a promise to his mother before she died to compile her written memories, "not necessarily into a book but into something for the family".
"I think she hoped it might be a book.
"I was very close to my mother, always wanting to be the favourite son for some reason, probably competing with my older brother Bill. I never really was the favourite though, he always was, being first born."
However, his mum shared her secrets because "I was a soul mate, protecting her when I could, sharing in her pain, buying her expensive birthday presents etc".
"If I made a promise to her, I had to keep it. Look at me now, still trying to win her favour with this book and she's been dead 24 years. I just loved her. She had always been the centre of life, probably of all her children's lives, in a way hard to explain. She was very empathetic."
The book covers the years from 1910 to 1995. It has a focus on Wallsend in 1915-16, along with Mayfield and Newcastle from 1915 through the First World War to 1937.
"The big snapshot is Mayfield - 1915 to 1928," Stephen said.
"Mum was very observant as a child and remembers everyone's name in the area and what they were like, all the houses in her street and the families in them, the churches, shops and shopkeepers, the steelworks, the old grand and derelict houses, the Chinese market gardeners, Arnott's Biscuits and the Hunter boatsheds.
"She has many good and funny stories to tell about that time."
While writing about this era, Stephen was struck by the self sufficiency of families and the importance of family life.
"Mum's dad, Tom Sharp, was a primary schoolteacher who earned only three pounds and ten shillings a week [about $7] all his life. He died in 1937. On this salary he raised seven children.
"They always had enough to eat, although they were short of clothes and never had a holiday or good presents."
Most of their vegetables were homegrown, they made their own jam and honey, caught fish and shot ducks for food. They had fowls or bought eggs from neighbours. They never owned their own home.
The older children had to leave school at 14 to earn money to help the family.
"They were helped enormously by their grandfather and grandmother, as was the tradition of the day. Everyone depended on their extended families. Children lived at home till they were married," Stephen said.
"Mum shared a double bed with her two sisters all her life. No one had their own bedroom."
Stephen said there was "a lot of hidden pain in those days".
"You can feel it in the book. But no one complained. These people really were resilient pioneers who knew they had to survive."
Newcastle in the era of the book was "dominated by the steelworks and coal mining".
"It was very working class, very religious (Methodist, Church of England and Catholic), very populated by Welsh, Scots, Irish and English ancestry and immigrants, very friendly, very family-oriented, unambitious, without vanity or pretension and full of smog," he said.
There was a divide between the families who owned industry and the families who worked in industry.
"The workers were mostly good solid men who joined the army and fought for Australia in both wars with never a second thought. Also, oddly, Newcastle was a very creative place. Not sure why."
We Will Rock You
Tim Crakanthorp has been getting stopped in the streets.
It's not just because of his recognisable face as the state member for Newcastle, it's also because of his dazzling lip-sync performance of Queen's We Will Rock You.
He performed the routine at a Hit106.9 Newcastle event to "stand up to domestic and family violence".
"When it comes to domestic and family violence, the statistics and stories are just harrowing. I would do this again and again if it means making a difference," Tim said on Facebook.