Ugo Catani’s A Summer Shower in Collins Street, 1889, sets the scene for Andrew May’s invitation to walk the streets of Melbourne, imagine the everyday past, and see the urban landscape with new eyes.
For the author, as for artists like Catani and Tom Roberts, the street frames the ever-changing throng of the wealthy and down-and-out, the passers-by, shoppers, idlers, hawkers, cabbies, entertainers, beggars, larrikins, prostitutes, custodians and law-breakers. It is the stage of ritual, procession and protest and the site of proud architecture, fine trees and public utilities. And it also has its hazards, of traffic, animals, assault, falling buildings, fire.
Original and vital in subject and tone, this award-winning book is a rich commentary on the growth and transformation of a great Australian city.
‘The sheer energy, the words springing directly from the page, the affection unvarnished by nostalgia? Must be a Melbourne thing … history at its best.’
—Grace Karskens, Australian Historical Studies
‘Andrew May has taken both scalpel and paint-brush to the task of showing that the streets of Melbourne have exemplified the city.’
‘an excellent work of history … accessible to all … a book of international significance. This innovative study makes a valuable contribution to the craft of urban history …’
—Don Garden, Australian Book Review
‘an astonishing performance … an instant classic, one that represents a wholly new, and triumphantly successful approach to urban history.’
—Donald J. Olsen, Vassar College, NY