Posted inNon Fiction


Sydney cover
Sydney cover.

As I set out from the city’s southern end, the sandstone walls beneath the Central railway line still held the day’s heat … The moon rose from the invisible harbour into a sky of such a deep royal blue it was almost hard to believe in. The street smelled of low tide. For all its beauty, the city could return in an instant to pulp. And that thought was strangely cheering.

Sydney has always been the sexiest and brashest of our cities, but perhaps the most misunderstood. In this new edition of Sydney, Delia Falconer conjures up its sandstone, humidity and jacarandas, its fireworks, glitz and magic. But she discards lazy stereotypes to reveal a complex city: beautiful, violent, half-wild, and at times deeply spiritual.

Beginning with her childhood in a decaying ’70s Sydney, caught between a faded Art Deco age and mega development, Falconer intertwines her own stories with the wellsprings of the city’s history and its literary past. Melancholic, moving and funny, Sydney is intensely atmospheric and seductive.

In a new afterward, Falconer ponders the city’s twenty-first century transformations – might it have become a softer, nicer place? Will it be able to withstand the real presence of climate change?

*Winner of the “Nib” CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature, 2011.

Shortlisted, 2011.

  • Prime Minister’s Literary Award (Nonfiction).
  • Colin Roderick Award.
  • NSW Premier’s History Awards (Community History).
  • Age Book of the Year.
  • National Biography Award


“[Falconer’s] arguments about the sombre undercurrents of Sydney are more delicate than I can give here, but she has succeeded in doing something no other writer has achieved in writing about Sydney: she has given it a melancholic and spectral seriousness that for far too long has been hidden under tinsel and fairy lights.  In other words she has given the city a unique, mythic dimension.  This is a brilliant book. If I were to recommend a book about Sydney to anyone, it would be this one.”

Louis Nowra, The Australian

“… you feel Falconer’s enduring love for the city. It’s a passionate, ambivalent love, streaked through with despair and fury, but a love nonetheless. It’s the energy of this ambivalent love, the force she let into the book, that makes Sydney far and away her best work.”

Drusilla Modjeska, The Monthly

“Falconer writes beautifully and evocatively in what is a long love letter to her hometown, as she delves deep into its essence.”

The Age

You can take a tour with Delia of Sydney’s sandstone for ABC Radio National’s “Blueprint”

Sydney’s sandstone for ABC Radio National’s “Blueprint”

Other editions

Sydney cover first edition
Sydney cover first edition.