Perth: Background information when reading Edie Richter is Not Alone

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Edie Richter is Not Alone

by Rebecca Handler

Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler X
Edie Richter is Not Alone by Rebecca Handler
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2021, 192 pages

    Oct 2022, 208 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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This article relates to Edie Richter is Not Alone

Print Review

Perth skyline featuring skyscrapers and a harborPerth features as the primary location in Rebecca Handler's debut novel Edie Richter Is Not Alone, about an American expatriate who relocates to Perth following the death of her father.

Located on the southwest coast, Perth is Australia's fourth-most populous city, with a population of around two million in the greater metropolitan area, according to a 2016 census. The capital of the state of Western Australia, Perth is nicknamed the "City of Lights"; in 1962, when astronaut John Glenn orbited Earth, there was a public campaign encouraging Perth residents to turn all of their lights on, resulting in the city being visible from space.

The southwest corner of Australia including what is now Perth has been occupied by Indigenous people for at least 35,000 years; at the time Europeans arrived, there were 14 distinct groups of Noongar peoples, each with their own dialect but with common laws and customs. They were a hunter-gatherer society who got most of their food from the sea, rivers and freshwater lakes. Swan River, one of the city's notable natural features, was named in 1694 by Willem de Vlamingh, a Dutch settler who passed through the area on a rescue mission to search for survivors of the Ridderschap van Holland ship, which had been lost at sea. The mission was unsuccessful, but he did chart some of Australia's western coast, and discovered the black swans that inspired the river's name.

The first British colonizers arrived in what is now Perth in 1829, when Colonial Governor Captain James Stirling established the Swan River Colony. In 1856 it officially became a city, at which time Stirling renamed it Perth, after a Scottish city of the same name. At this point, there were four main Noongar groups, but the British colonists viewed the land as unoccupied. The local Noongar and the British lived in relative harmony for a few years, though eventually disputes over land resources led to a number of killings which, in combination with deaths due to the spread of European diseases, resulted in the remaining Noongar retreating from their traditional lands to less favorable territory north of the river. Many survived, and today, the Noongar remain one of the largest groups of Aboriginal people in Australia.

Quokka, a small, brown marsupial with rounded earsThe Perth economy is buoyed by tourism and by the city's natural resources. It's a significant mining region, with prominent industries in energy, hospitality, education, agriculture and food. It regularly ranks in the top 10 on the Economist Intelligence Unit's list of the most livable cities in the world (based on factors like economic stability, culture, access to health care, education, etc.). Visitors to Perth can enjoy urban tours of Aboriginal history, live music, art galleries, cultural centers, the historic port town of Fremantle, and beaches where you have the opportunity to surf, whale watch and swim with dolphins. It's just a short ferry ride from Perth to Rottnest Island, where visitors can check out any of 63 beaches and observe the adorable quokka.

Perth skyline, courtesy of Tourism Australia

Quokka, courtesy of Reddit

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

Article by Rachel Hullett

This "beyond the book article" relates to Edie Richter is Not Alone. It originally ran in April 2021 and has been updated for the October 2022 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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