The last page of Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady (1881) leaves its heroine, Isabel Osmond, with an ambiguous choice. To go back into the cage of her wretched marriage might be an exercise of will for duty’s sake, or an evasion, based on fear. Readers have been disputing Isabel’s motives ever since her creator so ...... (read more)
When a biographer tells her own story, the rules change. Because the subject is the self, the problem is not so much a search for the unknown, but what to tell about the known and how to tell it. One of Britain’s finest biographers, Claire Tomalin, has spoken of her pleasure in ‘investigating’ other people’s lives. What happens ...... (read more)
To celebrate the best books of 2017 Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser, Susan Wyndham, James Ley, Geordie Williamson, Jane Sullivan, Tom Griffiths, Mark Edele, and Brenda Niall.... (read more)
If Constance Fenimore Woolson is remembered today, it is likely to be as a friend of Henry James, and a minor character in his much-chronicled life. Anne Boyd Rioux's ...... (read more)
Jennifer Maiden's The Fox Petition: New Poems (Giramondo) conjures foxes 'whose eyes were ghosts with pity' and foxes of language that transform the world's headlines... (read more)
With her long-awaited life of Archbishop Daniel Mannix, Brenda Niall, one of Australia’s leading biographers, has conquered a subject that for decades she regarded as compelling yet ‘intractable’. ‘As a presence (I wouldn’t claim such a remote and magisterial being as a neighbour) Daniel Mannix was part of my childhood,’ Niall recalls. She grew up in the ...
Award-winning biographer Brenda Niall welcomes the first biography of Penelope Fitzgerald by superlative British biographer Hermione Lee, and is fascinated by the great novelist’s secret river of creativity.... (read more)
It is a brilliant summer day in July 1935. The scene is a house called Green Ridges, near Hastings, Sussex. Two women, seated but not relaxed, face each other across a formal drawing room. This is the first time they have met. Nettie Palmer, Australian writer and journalist, has come to stay overnight with the novelist Henry Handel Richardson.
As novelist an ...
For a young academic in need of a job, 1964 was a lucky time. After three pioneering years with small enrolments, Monash University was bracing itself for the first big influx of postwar baby boomers. Above the flat and muddy stretches of Clayton farmland, where Wellington boots had been the footwear of choice, the first tall buildings were emerging. The Arts wing o ...