Sydney: The Story of a City

Sydney: The Story of a City

by Geoffrey Moorhouse

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


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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Moorhouse knows Sydney well, and his sharp and intelligent observations are a pleasure to read in this affectionate portrait."-Condé Nast Traveller
"Entirely worth buying for the virtuoso description of Sydney Harbour. Moorhouse is such a fine writer that we can be grateful for the interests and knowledge he shares with us."-The Daily Telegraph (LONDON)
Geoffrey 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.

Conde Nast Traveller
Moorhouse knows Sydney well, and his sharp and intelligent observations are a pleasure to read in this affectionate portrait.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The great navigator James Cook landed at Botany Bay on Australia's southeastern flank in 1770, deemed the area "safe and commodious," and weighed anchor a week later, cruising right past one of the greatest natural harbors on the planet. It's a characteristic wrinkle in the history of Sydney Harbor, and one among many canny observations found in this enjoyable introduction to Australia's cultural capital. Prolific historian Moorhouse opens with a dazzling overture to the harbor, "the alpha and the omega" of Sydney, and rambles through the city's colonial, military, agricultural and immigration highlights, pausing at cultural points of interest like Sydney's famed cricket ground or the extravagant Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. You can almost taste the local Chardonnay and rock oysters as Moorhouse relishes the urban panorama at Circular Quay, and he's spot on in his splendid, mocking portrait of Sydney's urban professional class, whose members are found sipping lattes at the landmark Queen Victoria Building, with cell-phones buzzing and Filofaxes at the ready. Moorhouse also studies the fierce battles waged over Sydney's future, such as the struggle at Woolloomooloo, one of the city's oldest suburbs, which succumbed to developers in the 1970s and was only partially saved by neighborhood advocates. The book can be scattershot, grazing the city's complex aboriginal roots in one chapter and giving a travel guide gloss on the Royal Botanic Gardens (a "miracle of tranquillity") in another. But for a place described as "the accidental city," Moorhouse's generous, ambling spirit is perhaps fitting enough. (June) FYI: This year's Summer Olympic Games will be held in Sydney, in September 2000. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
A voyage in and out of Sydney Harbour frames travel writer Moorhouse's (Calcutta) portrait of Sydney, the site of the 2000 Summer Olympics. Moorhouse relates the city's beginnings as a British penal colony in 1788, its growth as a port and regional center, its rise as a vibrant multicultural city, and also describes the city's landmarks, festivals, founding fathers, and prominent citizens. He does not shrink from stressing Sydney's problems of development, urban sprawl, and the seamier side of political corruption, scandal and crime, but, on the other hand, he drifts from describing characteristics of Australian culture and behavior that originate in Sydney's past. Although a keen observer, Moorhouse lacks Jan Morris's perspective of an insider to Sydney society (see Sydney, LJ 4/15/92) but shares her enthusiasm for the city and its people. Clearly not a mere travel guide, Moorhouse's excellent text begs to be reissued as an expanded edition with detailed maps and photographs. Recommended.--Lucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Annette Kobak
The body of the book is a virtuoso exposition of the gritty layers of social history that have formed Sydney . . . With a wealth of narrative detail, Moorhouse shows how Sydney has always been, above all, a workingman's town...
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A keen tour of Sydney, Australia—streetwise and savvy, both culturally and historically—from Moorhouse (Sun Dancing, 1997, etc.). The town named Sydney may have risen where the first convict ships from Britain hove into the glorious natural harbor, but the aboriginal population was there well ahead of them. Moorhouse begins his story with the Aborigines, by way of their Dreaming and artwork and their precarious survival, disavowing anything more than the briefest of introductions but delivering a respectful measure more. Taking the role of observer—though he is more than happy to sample the city's food and beverages and skim the waters of Tank Stream and the harbor—Moorhouse's sedate and ever-so melancholy voice moves on to touch all over Sydney's history and landscape. He recounts the sorry years of the town as a penal colony, the joys of its Botanic Gardens; he delves into institutionalized racism and the bullying of the church in secular life. He takes readers on a slow ramble through the remnants of a gracefully proportioned cityscape that early learned to separate home and industry and put the emphasis on greenery, which only recently and with unfortunate results has "taken a back seat to the needs of capital" in the form of tacky high-rise financial buildings. He explains the importance of cricket and horse racing, the theater and opera and the public library. But most of all he sings the praises of the city's fine, safe harbor. It is a waterscape that has smitten Moorhouse, a shimmering world that is the final reference point to the land that surrounds it, a working harbor that is still a valued presence when many cities have cometoshun their watery origins. Moorhouse is a crackerjack travel writer and storyteller, and he has impeccable timing: Sydney will host the 27th Olympiad this summer, which ought to spur plenty of interest in the city.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.19(d)

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