Sydney's harbor establishes it as one of the most attractive modern cities, but its beginnings suggest something different. In 1770, the British Parliament saw the area as a solution to England's overcrowded prisons. On arriving at the harbor, the first "convicts" found themselves in one of the hottest climates in the world, and were greeted by aboriginal natives whose curiosity was matched only by their desire for the newcomers to leave. Sydney is a place where gravestones have such inscriptions as "Be ready mates, that's all!," where people wear shorts and sandals to one of the most renowned opera houses in the world, where the working man fights for what he's got and never backs down. Geoffrey Moorhouse brilliantly describes the city, its appetites, and its character-from its colonial beginnings to its becoming the host city of the 2000 Olympics. His curious knowledge, remarkable insight, and marvelous storytelling capture Sydney's warmth, texture, resilience, and loyalty.
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Sir Thomas Beecham wondered why it hadn't been called Herbert. Captain Cook even managed to miss the harbor's entrance, leaving it to Arthur Phillip to discover the site for what has become one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Since the convict-laden First Fleet arrived in 1788, Sydney has experienced its share of growing pains, but, perched on the brink of the 21st century, it is now a racially diverse, culturally abundant hotspot emerging triumphantly from its adolescence.
Geoffrey Moorhouse embraces the city with the glorious energy of one who is smitten. The bibliography attests to the dusty volumes devoured to produce a narrative stuffed with fact, anecdote, and entertaining hearsay that glides from objective to subjective perspective with an imperious swagger. A broad brush is successfully employed, for the author's winning enthusiasm and eclectically baggy rendition refreshes a palette fatigued by the self-conscious cynicism of which so much modern travel writing reeks. Giving due consideration to ethnic issues both indigenous and immigrant, sporting heritage, architecture, politics, Mardi Gras, ANZAC Day, and the city's deep-rooted rivalry with the Other Place--Melbourne--Moorhouse cannot help but constantly return to Sydney's most cherished heirloom, its focus and raison d'être: the Harbour (where, these days, arriving vessels bear a different and more affluent kind of passenger). An intermingling of past and snapshot present gives rise to a valuable sociological chronicle both old-fashioned and progressive in the best sense of both words--as well as providing a darned good read, whether or not you're familiar with the city. If not, chances are you'll very quickly want to be. --David Vincent, Amazon.co.ukAbout the Author:
Geoffrey Moorhouse is the author of eighteen books, including the highly acclaimed Calcutta. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was chief features writer at The Manchester Guardian for twelve years.
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