Understanding the Real Sydney

30 Days in Sydney: A Distorted Account by well-known Australian writer Peter Carey is not, as the title might suggest, a traveler’s guide book for how to spend thirty days in Australia’s biggest city. It’s something much different, loosely framed on Carey’s thirty-day stay in Sydney while he lived abroad in New York.

Since Carey had lived in Sydney before, he had a ready network of friends to tap into when he once again set foot on the Aussie shore. Before arriving he had decided he wanted to tell the story of this month-long trip through anecdotes related to the elements of water, earth, wind and fire, and he spends the book pursuing the various friends who he knows have interesting tales to tell.

Through this framework, the reader really gets to know Sydney, its culture and its history, getting much deeper than the average tourist. Carey goes into detail about the design of the famous Sydney Opera House through hearing a presentation from a little-known academic; he describes the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race through the terrifying tales of friends who took part in its most dangerous year. He looks back into history to when white people first arrived in Sydney and lets us see how it has changed since then, for better or for worse, and he brings us up to the present day by looking at the influence of the 2000 Olympic Games on the city, too.

30 Days in Sydney won’t tell you when the ferry to Manly leaves Circular Quay, but it is still a must-read for anyone visiting Sydney.

Creative Commons License photo credit: krossbow