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by Paul Daley
Publication Date: 01/11/2020
RRP  $29.99 $24.25

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.

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"...Daley has unveiled a side of the city that many do not see."
The Adelaide Advertiser

"(Daley's) narration of the history of the place, and of the city erected on it, is done with flair and aplomb, making Canberra among other things the best concise, broad-brush Canberra history yet. One major joy of the book is the way in which he gives Canberra's NINTBYs, who may be the world's nastiest and most unforgivable of their kind, some very hard slaps. It would be good if all of Canberra turned into one big book club and read Canberra, so as to be able to natter about it, be stimulated by it and fight duels over it. The book is unique. Because Canberra is such a young city, it has never had a soliloquy like this written about it before."
Ian Warden, The Canberra Times

Paul Daley

Paul Daley is an author, journalist, essayist and short story writer. His books have been shortlisted for the Prime Minister's History Prize and ACT Book of the Year. He has won two Walkley Awards and the National Press Club Award for Excellence in Press Gallery Journalism. His essays have appeared in Meanjin and Griffith Review and he writes Postcolonial, a column for The Guardian about Australian national identity, history and Indigenous culture.

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