A book doing justice to a complex place: Darwin by Tess Lea

Illustration of a beautiful sunset with spiky pandanus tangled in the foreground

Spiky Sunset: Lea’s book captures much of Darwin’s complex appeal

Darwin by Tess Lea is an intriguing, beautifully written exploration of the unique history, geography, beauties, tensions and contradictions of Australia’s smallest and remotest capital city. It’s been on my bookshelf for awhile, read, recommended and bequeathed by my father after a visit. After a year I got around to reading it. There were things I’d picked up myself during 18 months in Darwin and it powerfully captured many of the weird tensions, extremes and quirks that have quickly made me love the place. Its exploration of Darwin’s history and the constraints created by the geography of the place also helped explain a lot. And the recounting of tragedies and injustices of the past and present were challenging, confronting and incredibly helpful to someone who is part of the ‘new Darwin’, demonstrating how recent, deep, long-lasting and ongoing are the causes and effects of the White Australia policy and colonialism. In Darwin, past and present, they have always been close to the surface and this book powerfully weaves these threads together in a way that really does capture many facets of this interesting place.

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