Trollope said of Sydney that 'I despair of being able to convey to any reader my own idea of the beauty of Sydney Harbour. I have seen nothing equal to it in the way of land-locked sea scenery, it makes a man ask himself whether it would not be worth his while to move his household goods to the eastern coast of Australia, in order that he might look at it as long as he can look at anything.'
Geoffrey Moorhouse agrees, and his intention, as with his previous books Calcutta and Imperial City: The Rise and Rise of New York, is to describe the city comprehensively and to explain in historical terms, from its colonial beginnings - how it has come to be the way it is. Moorhouse considers Sydney the most attractive of New World cities with all the virtues of American virtues but none of the vices. Australian ingredients of warmth, loyalty, resilience also play their part and, he asks, 'where else on a Friday night in June, could you choose between Joan Carden singing Leonara at the Opera House and Wally Lewis leading his Brisbane Broncos at the Football Stadium? And afterwards enjoy rock oysters and a local Chardonnay beside one of the loveliest waters in the world, twinkling with light and breathing an assurance that all things in the end shall be well?'
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In this illustrated history of Australia's principal metropolis, Moorhouse explains the city in historical terms, describing how it has come to be the way it is - the most attractive of New World cities with all the virtues of American ones, but none of the vices. The Australian ingredients of warmth, loyalty and resilience also play their part.Review:
Sir Thomas Beecham wondered why it hadn't been called Herbert. Captain Cook even managed to miss the harbour's entrance, leaving it to Arthur Phillip to discover the site for what has become one of the most vibrant cities in the world. In the final volume of a Metropolitan Trilogy that has previously described Calcutta and New York Geoffrey Moorhouse considers Sydney--the youngest of the three but cantering up the rails apace (to use sporting jargon a Sydneysider would appreciate). Since the convict-laden First Fleet arrived in 1788 the city 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.
Moorhouse attacks his task 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 you're familiar with the city or not; and if you're not the chances are you'll very quickly want to be. --David Vincent
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