30 review for Kings Cross: A biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nel Lombardo

    Overall I loved this book. It was a fantastic and comprehensive history of Kings Cross right from settlement days. The homes, the characters, the environment was described so well that I felt I was transported there at times. A1+

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gary Vassallo

    A great history of the Cross. I have lived in the area for many years and loved reading about the history of many of the buildings and streets.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘I was on a bus visiting Kings Cross for the first time when a woman pulled a knife on me.’ Louis Nowra has written a lively biography of Kings Cross in Sydney, where (despite the knife incident) he has lived since 1997. A biography, of a place? Well, yes. Kings Cross is both a constantly changing physical space and a state of mind – with an interesting history. Officially, there is no such place as Kings Cross. Originally Elizabeth Bay, Potts Point, Rushcutters Bay and parts of Darlinghurst and ‘I was on a bus visiting Kings Cross for the first time when a woman pulled a knife on me.’ Louis Nowra has written a lively biography of Kings Cross in Sydney, where (despite the knife incident) he has lived since 1997. A biography, of a place? Well, yes. Kings Cross is both a constantly changing physical space and a state of mind – with an interesting history. Officially, there is no such place as Kings Cross. Originally Elizabeth Bay, Potts Point, Rushcutters Bay and parts of Darlinghurst and Woolloomooloo became known as Queens (later Kings) Cross because seven congested streets met where the iconic Coca-Cola sign now stands. ‘In other words, the x at one time or another can represent anything you want it to be.’ Until the early 1800s, Kings Cross (known as Woolloomooloo Hill) was a blustery ridge just east of Sydney and was home to windmills rather than people. In the early 1800s, land grants lead to grand estates (such as Elizabeth Bay House built between 1835 and 1839 for Alexander Macleay). One hundred years later, many of these grand estates were sold off and subdivided. Mansions left standing were partitioned into low-cost accommodation. By the 1920s, Kings Cross was the most densely populated area in Australia. ‘Cities need places like Kings Cross – it exists and has existed for decades, as a necessary relief valve for society.’ Louis Nowra takes the reader through Kings Cross, street by street, through the history and the geography, the buildings and characters that have shaped Kings Cross. Scattered throughout the narrative are reminders of Kings Cross’s individuality: the blackouts declared during World War II during which the residents rushed out into the street where a spotter plane pilot compared the sight of thousands of lit cigarettes to ‘a birthday cake with all its candles alight’, and neon lights visible at 5000 feet. Sex and sin feature in any account of Kings Cross, as well as characters including Bea Miles, Rosaleen Norton, Abe ‘Mr Sin’ Saffron and Renee Rivkin. Perhaps my favourite character of the book was ‘Kings Cross Bob’, the fox terrier who lived at the corner of Darlinghurst and Bayswater Roads for twelve years after his master died. He vanished in 1939, apparently taking up residence in Cygnet, Tasmania with one of his fans, a Mr F. Thompson. Visiting Kings Cross at least once is a rite of passage for many Australians. I remember staying at the Canberra-Oriental Hotel in 1970 as part of a school visit and being more than a little overwhelmed by the frenetic activity of the Cross. Fifteen years later, I stayed there again, dodging bodies sleeping (I hope) in doorways as I made my way into the city for work. I enjoyed reading this biography, using the maps provided to imagine accompanying Louis Nowra on his walks around Kings Cross. Kings Cross continues to evolve: what will the streetscape look like in 2113? ‘The rest of Australia has caught up and Kings Cross is no longer needed as it once was.’ Surely not. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  4. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Farr

    A well-researched book about a unique part of Sydney. The author lost me in the last few chapters when he ranted about Lord Mayor Clover Moore who is attempting to clean up the Cross and respond to the changing demographic, something the author is struggling to embrace. Overall, a good read that is recommended to those who live in and around the city-area of Sydney or have an interest in Sydneyâ(tm)s history and geography. The book will leave you wanting to google images of old buildings, persona A well-researched book about a unique part of Sydney. The author lost me in the last few chapters when he ranted about Lord Mayor Clover Moore who is attempting to clean up the Cross and respond to the changing demographic, something the author is struggling to embrace. Overall, a good read that is recommended to those who live in and around the city-area of Sydney or have an interest in Sydneyâ(tm)s history and geography. The book will leave you wanting to google images of old buildings, personalities and watch videos from bygone eras.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Tanner

    Great book for those that live in or know the area but also a good read for those that don't. I like the fact that it wasn't a linear, chronological history but went off on tangents in each chapter. It's amazing to read a book about streets, buildings and people you actually know. Has given me a renewed liking for my suburb and also an informed opinion/ perspective about gentrification and what constitutes the heart and soul of the place.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm Frawley

    I have long been a fan of Louis Nowra's plays & non-fiction (particularly his memoirs). This is right up there with the best of them. An enjoyable mix of the historical & the personal - Nowra is a long-time resident of the Cross - it carried me from mansions on the hill through bohemian times, the Underbelly years, & into the current cleanse, apparently motivated by the affluent middle classes needing a 'safer' environment in which to invest, & even live. Highly recommended. I have long been a fan of Louis Nowra's plays & non-fiction (particularly his memoirs). This is right up there with the best of them. An enjoyable mix of the historical & the personal - Nowra is a long-time resident of the Cross - it carried me from mansions on the hill through bohemian times, the Underbelly years, & into the current cleanse, apparently motivated by the affluent middle classes needing a 'safer' environment in which to invest, & even live. Highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rozanna Lilley

    At over 400 pages this book is in dire need of an edit. As a former Kings Cross resident I really enjoyed the evocation of particular streets and the stories associated with bygone businesses and characters. But quite a lot of it read like it was quickly strung together from newspaper research. And often it strayed towards the graphic end of voyeuristic.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tony

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Russo

  10. 5 out of 5

    Julian Leatherdale

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Lloyd

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Mcfarlane

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lincoln

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn Louise Bendall

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carolina

  17. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bradley Tonkes

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bernard Doyle

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chrys Stevenson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  23. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Posker

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Nette

  25. 4 out of 5

    A Adams

  26. 5 out of 5

    Milarosa Dolares

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pria Adam Mutzelburg

  28. 4 out of 5

    vicki coley

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hwilko

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