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Erudite, affectionate and witty, with more meanders and diversions than the river itself, Yarra is both a fascinating read and a fitting tribute to the 'noble stream'.

In September 1835 surveyor John Wedge misheard the local Kulin identify the river as 'Yarrow Yarrow'. It was only some months later that Wedge discovered they had been referring to the pattern and movement of water over the Falls, not the river itself. And ever since, it has been the Yarra's fate to be misunderstood: maligned for its muddiness, ill-used as sewer and tip; scooped, sculpted, straightened and stressed, 'cleaned up' to the detriment of its natural inhabitants; built-over, under and beside; worked mercilessly and then bridged almost to maritime extinction.

In Kristin Otto's superbly entertaining new history, the whole sorry tale is laid bare. From the creation stories of Kulin owners and geologist blow-ins to the twenty-first-century waterside building boom, Otto traces the course of Melbourne's murky river.

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