Larrikin Angel: A biography of Veronica Brady
Round House Press, $32.95 pb, 294 pp
The question of the relationship of the biographer to their subject is a fascinating one. Kath Jordan is frank about her long and intimate friendship with Veronica Brady as she recounts the way this book came into being. In a preface, she remembers celebrating with a friend the High Court’s rejection of Western Australia’s challenge to its Mabo native title decision, in March 1995. Thinking of Brady’s active involvement in Aboriginal rights issues, the two decided that they would write her biography. Brady gave her consent to the idea – although there is no sense that she was closely involved with the project – and what became the unexpectedly long gestation of Larrikin Angel was eventually begun, with only one author.
Larrikin Angel is a very readable, unpretentious, roughly chronological narrative of a significant Australian life. While there are too many anecdotes, usually affirmatory, about Brady from former students, colleagues, friends and public figures, and an irritating level of repetition – of assessment of Brady’s character, for instance, and sometimes of event or incident – the book is a valuable record of a remarkable woman. Jordan has unlimited admiration for her subject, and although she recognises from the beginning that Brady invites opposed responses from those she comes into contact with, having been ‘intensely hated … and equally intensely loved and respected’, the tone of the book is very much that of a loving friend.