Melbourne has been the subject of countless novels, films and documentaries. Here’s our list of recommended reading and viewing, from dark tales to joyful journals.
Power Without Glory Power by Frank Hardy (1950)
Few books have created as much controversy than Frank Hardy’s Power Without Glory. Set in the fictitious suburb of Carringbush (based on the actual suburbs of Abbotsford and Collingwood), this tale of corruption is said to be based on Melbourne businessman and politician, John Wren.
Monkey Grip by Helen Garner (1977)
Monkey Grip was celebrated Melbourne writer Helen Garner’s first novel, and is considered an Australian literary classic. Set in 1970s inner-city Melbourne, the novel was inspired by the real life events of a house shared by students, musicians and actors, some with hardened drug habits.
Wicked but Virtuous by Mirka Mora (2000)
Artist Mirka Mora arrived in Melbourne with her husband from Paris in 1951, and began transforming the local art scene. Her autobiography is a jubilant account of her bohemian life. Mora’s public artworks include the mosaic murals at Flinders Street Station and St Kilda Pier.
The Birth of Melbourne by Tim Flannery (2002)
In this anthology, Flannery has researched lesser-known documents that shed light on the secret life of the early city between 1800 and 1910. It contains excerpts from tribal elders, Chinese immigrants, governors and criminals, offering a wide range of perspectives on Melbourne’s history and development.
The Encyclopedia of Melbourne by Brown-May & Swain (2005)
Over ten years in the writing, this big fat book reflects the city’s historical position as one of the world’s pre-eminent nineteenth-century metropolises. Alphabetical entries cover factual summaries about places, institutions and events, along with articles covering topics of architecture, literature, science, and sporting culture.
Marvellous Melbourne: Queen City of the South (1910)
This 15-minute silent film was made when Melbourne was Australia’s interim capital, and is the oldest known surviving documentary about the city. It’s a fascinating insight into how much, or how little, has changed in 100 years. The film can be downloaded from https://archive.org/details/MarvellousMelbourne.
The Club (1980)
This satirical play by Australian playwright David Williamson, is an ode to Melbourne’s obsession with Australian Rules Football. It follows the fortunes and dramas of one football club over the course of a season, and is said to be based on the Collingwood Football Club.
Dogs in Space (1986)
This dark film, starring the late Michael Hutchence of INXS fame, was filmed in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. It exposes the drugs, sex and music of the Melbourne punk era in the late 1970s. through an odd assortment of characters sharing a derelict house.
Death in Brunswick (1990)
This acclaimed film, based on the novel of the same name by Boyd Oxlade, was set and filmed in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. Starring Sam Neill, Zoe Carides and John Clarke, it deals with relationships in multi-cultural Australia, delivered in a slapstick comedic fashion.
Based on real-life events in Melbourne between 1995 and 2004, Underbelly tells the story of the gangland killings between rival factions of Melbourne's criminal underworld. The series was banned from being broadcast in Victoria until the real trial had concluded.
The Real Housewives of Melbourne (2014)
This Australian reality television series was developed as one of the international instalments of American television series The Real Housewives. The show, which proved so popular it was renewed for three seasons, delves into the private and professional lives of several women living in Melbourne.