A strong sense of 'otherness' defines Canberra to a point where there is a smugness, bordering on arrogance, that the rest of Australia can hate us - but they'll never know just how good it is to live here.
Canberra is a city of orphans. People come for the jobs on offer but stay on as they discover unanticipated promise and opportunity in a city that the rest of the country loathes but can't do without. They become Canberrans prosperous, highly educated and proud of both the planned and unplanned elements of their city.
Daley's Canberra begins and ends at the original lake and its forgotten suburbs, traces of which can still be found on the banks of the Lake Burley Griffin, opened in 1964. It chronicles the unsavoury early life of Canberra, meanders through the graveyard at St John's where the pioneers rest, contemplates the unique social dynamics of the suburbs, visits the extraordinary cultural institutions and looks up to the mountains that surround the city.
In the national capital people might not ask you where you went to school, as they do in Melbourne, or how much you paid for house, as they do in Sydney. They ask you where you've come from. And how long you're going to stay.
As it turned out, after the book was first published to great acclaim the author himself moved to Sydney, a change he found wrenching. In his new Afterword, Paul Daley reflects on how much he misses Canberra as it transforms into a thriving city.