Ellie Marney is the author Every Breath, this month’s FYA Book Club pick. Thanks to the adventures of Rachel Watts and James Mycroft, the main characters of the novel, readers get to know a little about the city in which the book is set: the city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia.
We asked Marney, who spent time living in the city, to take us on a tour so that we could live vicariously through photos and learn more about the place that Watts and Mycroft call home.
Wherever you go, there you are: Melbourne and Every Breath
It’s been twenty-six years since I left my hometown of Brisbane, on the north-east coast of Australia, and moved to Melbourne, way down in the bottom right-hand quadrant of my harsh, lovely, weird-shaped country. I am not a native Melburnian, and at this time of my life I don’t even live in Melbourne—I live about two hours’ drive away, in the rural centre of the state of Victoria—yet I come over all poetic when I’m asked to talk about my adopted city.
I grew up elsewhere, and have lived in a number of very picturesque cities in other parts of the world, but Melbourne is the city where I feel most at home. It’s also the place where I set my YA crime novel, Every Breath (and the two sequels both take place partly in Melbourne). My teenage characters—James Mycroft and Rachel Watts—run the gauntlet of life-threatening criminal investigation experiences while exploring the dark heart of a city that I’ve come to love like it’s my own.
Melbourne was the first place where I felt like a grown up. I had moved cities—states, in fact—against parental advice, I was making my own moves, creating my own destiny. So there’s that. But also it’s the vibe of the place: Melbourne has a long history of cultural and artistic appreciation, and it’s where you find most of the major institutions that support artistic industries like film and literature and fine arts and music in Australia (not to say there aren’t those things in other cities—there are, but in Melbourne there’s a lot of them gathered in one place). Plus it just feels cool. There’s alley graffiti, and rockabilly chicks, and late-night cafes, and cobbled backstreets, and haute couture, and pub bands, and divey bars, and a vast array of cuisines, and people from all over.
I think it vibed well with the characters, too. I am an émigré from another city. Rachel Watts is a country girl thrust into the hustle and bustle of the Big Smoke. James Mycroft is an English boy on foreign soil. None of us are on home ground. I could kinda see how the characters’ feelings about the city mirrored my own (especially when the weather got freezing, that first year, and I hated the city as much as I loved it).
So here’s a few places in Melbourne that I love, and also some that feature in Every Breath. I’m putting them down here so we can all love them together.
Source: Broadsheet/Sofia Sjodin
The best Italian supper bar that’s open all day and into the night, where you can get a strong Italian-style latte and the most amazing spaghetti bolognese: the sauce is cooked in a pot that I don’t think ever gets emptied, it just keeps getting added to and stirred around, and out comes this rich red deliciousness. My now-husband took me here for the first time when we started dating, and I knew he was The Real Thing.
Source: Ellie Marney
Rachel and Mycroft both live on Summoner Street, an imaginary street off Sydney Road in the north of the city. One of the biggest migrant hubs in Melbourne, with kebab shops, massage parlours, cafes where Turkish and Greek men sit around and smoke and drink thick coffee, Savers (the city’s largest warehouse thrift shop, where I buy most of my clothes), pubs, car dealerships, ALDI stores and bridal marts, all smooshed together in a colourful grungy display.
The Melbourne Zoo
Source: Melbourne Point
The best thing about writing Every Breath was that I got to visit the Zoo all the time for "research." As my littlest kids were enthusiastic about visiting the Zoo as well, this was double happiness. I went on a Night Tour there one time—did you know that elephants only sleep four hours a day? And that the slow loris has poisoned sweat glands? This is the spot I located my first fictional murder, so it’ll always have a place in my heart (hehe).
Degraves Lane and Centre Place
Source: Visit Melbourne
At one point, in Every Breath, Rachel and Mycroft go to a Melbourne laneway to explore some graffiti … there’s some climbing of scaffolding involved. This laneway is kind of the place I imagined it happening, if there weren’t always a million people moving around at any given time of the day or night. Best place to go for coffee, doughnuts, quirky shoes, graffiti (obvs), pretending-to-be-street-market-style food, odd fashion, and just to look groovy.
The MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground)
Source: Able Industries Engineering
Most popularly known as the home of footy, not cricket—because we’re weird like that. Mentioned on page 254—yes, the MCG is usually lit by massive floodlights. Pigeons circle high during football games (we’re talking Aussie Rules football here, folks). Again, another place my now-husband took me when I was still acclimatising to the city (he’s a keeper). The MCG is as Melbourne as it comes.
Source: City of Melbourne
Not mentioned in the book, but one of my favourite places. Green and quiet and extensive—and that beautiful fountain! The Melbourne Museum is here, and in summer you can flop under the big tall trees, lay on the grass and read a book … (You will be visited by possums if you walk through the gardens at night, they will jump you for your food scraps, watch out).
Source: Herald Sun/Andrew Tauber
Melbourne Writers Festival is held here every year (in fact, I was just there doing sessions for the festival Schools program, and had a blast). Also the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, cafes, restaurants, other cool stuff. Yes, the architecture is very weird, it’s a thing.
State Library Victoria
If you visit Melbourne you should go here, and give my love to the Centre for Youth Literature folks, they are the awesomest (#LoveOzYA!). And definitely go visit the Reading Room, which is a delight.
So there you have it: Melbourne, the city I love. Come visit one day, if you can! Check out all the Every Breath locations, and make sure to look me up.
Homepage image source: Walesjacqueline