Books & Literature

Book Review: Sea Change, by Jim Blake

NON-FICTION: Adelaide’s coastal settlements have undergone mighty changes over the last 186 years. Using rare photographs, including many from the 19th century, Sea Change showcases the history of these favourite places, including Glenelg, Brighton, Seacliff and more, that now make up the City of Holdfast Bay.

History adorned! An enticing way to learn about the area’s history.

Feature image credit: Wakefield Press

Author and long-time local of the Holdfast Bay area for more than 80 years, Jim Blake, has collaborated with the Holdfast Bay History Centre to revise and update their edition of Sea Change.

In the 20 years since inception, the Holdfast Bay History Centre has engaged a team of dedicated volunteers who have helped to preserve and collate the area’s local history. As author Blake has an interest in amateur photography, he had the role of cataloguing the photographic collection. Sea Change contains both historical photographs from this collection along with modern pictures of the same landscape; most of the latter ones taken by Blake.

The publication is an outstanding pictorial history of the area. It belongs in every local waiting room and in public places like community centres and libraries, and it’s a must for history lovers. Like any tome, it is heavy, large, and designed to withstand multiple users. Bound with a photographic front cover, the pages are made with high GSM smooth paper, and are of that premium quality which provides a nice feel that matches its aesthetic.

Although I have a keen interest in history, my attention span can be quite short when reading facts and figures on a page, particularly if there is no outcome attached (such as when studying a textbook for an upcoming exam). This is most likely why I am drawn to the format of this book. Much of the written history is only a paragraph long, and it is the photos that show the development, with an old and new photo provided for each place of interest or changing landscape.

The only downside of this book is that it demonstrates only one side of history. As in, it is history represented only from the time of the first European settlers to the area. Fortunately, the book’s dedication, foreword and introduction acknowledge the absence of Aboriginal Australians, noting in the introduction that the focus of the book is post-1836, or the last 150 years in the area.

Some of the highlights for me included the “Old Gum Tree” (Macfarlane Street, Glenelg North), Albert Hall, Glenara, Jetty Road and its buildings, Brighton Primary School, the council chambers at Brighton, the jetties, beaches, esplanades and foreshores, along with Luna Park and Magic Mountain. The changes in transport and attire are always enjoyable in history books.

Although places like Seacombe house were destroyed by the 1954 earthquake, many places like St Leonard’s Inn (now Watermark Hotel), Saltram (now Saltram Towers), and Essenside (now Manson Towers) in the Glenelg area were demolished by developers in the 1970s and replaced with the buildings we see today. This is where the changes in the landscape are not uplifting for a reader. However, note that the replacement of some former buildings, such as the townhouses at Somerton Park on the Esplanade that now stand on a site that was formerly a home for polio sufferers, are indicative of the better world we live in today.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Wakefield Press
Released: July 2023
RRP: $45.00

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