The Girl Booker

The Girl Booker

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Streets Are So Wide...

A treasure, a delight, a gem; Kerryn Goldsworthy's Adelaide is one of the most moving, interesting, personal and beautiful books I think I have ever read.

Several months ago, I discovered that New South Books were bringing out a series of books about Australia's capital cities and since that time I have been watching and waiting for the Adelaide volume. Although I have lived in Sydney for close to a decade, I was born and bred in Adelaide's wide, grid-patterned streets, and have spent long hours debating where "home" is, and what Adelaide is to me if it is no longer home.

Adelaide is about the history of the city, but it is also about how the residents and past residents feel about the city. While I adored every single sentence of the volume, I suspect the depth of one's association with the city would exactly replicated one's depth of enjoyment of the book. It is excellently written; full of beautiful phrases and quirky facts and I am sure anyone would love to read it but I do concede the personal, passionate attachment to it that I have felt would probably only be experienced by those with a connection to Adelaide itself.

Goldsworthy quotes Paul Kelly's song Adelaide a couple of times in the book, and this song has always said so much to me of my own push-pull experiences with the place:

The streets are so wide,
Everybody's inside,
Sitting in the same chairs
They were sitting in last year.
This is my town

Reading this book made me fall in love with Adelaide again, and want to forgive all the quirks and annoyances that I have held like petty grudges against the city of my birth. Chapter 6 reminded me so viscerally of the sights and smells of childhood Summers and my greatly missed grandparents that I cried. It almost(!) made me want to move back there.

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