Once regarded as a provincial backwater, Perth has been transformed by the latest mineral resources boom into the nation’s fastest-growing city. The world’s most isolated capital, it is also one of the most outward-looking: a land of ‘porous boundaries’ and endless possibilities, where time and distance are illusory, and the collective gaze of its citizens has, from the first, been resolutely fixed upon the future; and yet it remains a site of ‘great contradictions’. ‘Spacious yet claustrophobic’, open but secretive, it is a place where Georgian buildings sit alongside glass towers; where nostalgia for a ‘vanished frontier’ infects the prevailing mood of optimism; and where, in winter, even the iconic Swan River flows in two directions at once, the rainwater from the Darling Scarp washing seawards above the salty incoming tide beneath. Faced with these competing views, author David Whish-Wilson goes in search of the essential Perth and finds a people and a place shaped by ancient and modern forces.
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