After living in New York for ten years novelist Peter Carey returned home to Sydney with the idea of capturing its ebullient character via the four elements. 'I would never seek to define Manhattan by asking my New York friends for stories of Earth and Air and Fire and Water,' he writes, 'but that is exactly what was in my mind as I walked through immigration at Kingsford Smith International Airport.'
But Carey's friends turn out to be anarchic characters each of whom has had his own very individual ways of story-telling. Carey draws the reader helplessly into a wild and wonderful journey of discovery and re-discovery.
Reading this book is a very physical experience, as bracing as the famous Southerly buster that sometimes batters Sydney's beauteous shores. Famous visual extravaganzas such as Bondi Beach, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the Blue Mountains all take on a strange new intensity when exposed to the penetrating gaze of Peter and his friends.
30 Days In Sydney offers the reader a private glimpse behind the glittering facades and the venetian blinds. It will exhilarate and enchant all who visit.
Part of a series on great cities by writers, this is a memoir that encapsulates the unique geography and history of Sydney through personal reflections. Carey bases his observations on memories of when he lived there, on the anecdotes of his friends who still live there and on historical documents relating the early days of the colony. It's a slim volume, but nothing is left out. The four elements are used as a framework for this biography: Fire was used by Aborigines to manage the environment and bushfires have many times threatened and even destroyed the homes of Sydneysiders; the Earth was inhospitable to the first British Farmers and the first colony nearly starved to death in a land of plenty, unable to grow anything from home in the poor soil; Water is responsible for the fabulous aspect of Sydney on its great natural harbour and wind keeps many of the locals occupied in the pursuit of sailing, an occupation that can also claim lives as sailors in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race are constantly aware. As Sydney was the first town in Australia, its history is in many ways that of the nation. Carey manages to cram in reflections on Australians and their relationship with war, with the land, mateship, real estate development, sport... and Aborigines - the shame of a country whose Prime Minister will shake hands with former national enemies and ask for peace internationally but won't apologise to the nation's disinherited indigenous population. It's a moving evocation of a people, a scholarly piece disguised as an easily read diary of a holiday in Sydney. The only quibble is that Carey carries on a conversation in his head with a fictional character that gives him a chance to say what he wants heard but with no punctuation so the reader is confused as to what is conversation and what is narrative. (Kirkus UK)
Series: The writer & the city
Number Of Pages: 248
Published: 6th August 2001
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Dimensions (cm): 18.4 x 12.1 x 1.9
Weight (kg): 0.286