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From Barnes & NobleGeoffrey Moorhouse is something of a poet, producing prose that alternately steams with passion and aches with melancholy. With 18 books to his credit, he is also a consummate journalist, having worked 12 years as a writer for the Manchester Guardian. In his latest work, Sydney: The Story of a City, his work as a novelist and as a journalist comes together to paint an intriguing, informative, and personal account of Sydney, Australia. Moorhouse puts the reader right into the passenger seat by writing of his own recent experiences in Sydney, while cleverly intertwining these personal reminiscences with historical information.
Concerned with giving the reader a true first impression of Sydney, Moorehouse begins with Sydney Harbour, which he believes to be the very crux of Sydney. "The Harbour is the key to Sydney, its alpha and its omega." He extensively describes the early beginnings of Sydney via the Harbour, exploring the commerce that sprang up from the ports and the influence the water traffic had on the burgeoning community.
Moorhouse goes deep into Sydney's history, uncovering the unusual truth of the city's founding. Sydney began as an English penal colony in the late 18th century; the incredibly hot conditions made it quite uncomfortable for prisoners. But by the mid-1800s, when the first railway system was set up, the city was growing into a small metropolis. Leaving no stone unturned, Moorehouse even gives a full history and account of Sydney's suburbs. He argues proudly that the Royal Botanic Gardens, just beyond Sydney Harbour, make Central Park in New York, the Giardino Borghese in Rome, and Hyde Park in London look shabby. Moorehouse devotes three chapters to Sydney's nightlife, entertainment, and art. In the chapter entitled, "Mardi Gras and Tall Poppies," Moorehouse describes all-night debacles resulting in arrests for drunken disorder, and then he juxtaposes these passages with descriptions of concerts held by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Covering Sydney's politics and politicians, weather, recreation, and more, Moorehouse's book is a rich portrait of this lively, eccentric city.
—Freelancer Kevin Giordano is based in New York.