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Jacqueline Kent

Jacqueline Kent

Jacqueline Kent is a Sydney-based writer of biography and other non-fiction. Her memoir Beyond Words: A year with Kenneth Cook (UQP, 2019) was shortlisted for the 2020 National Biography Award. Her most recent book is Vida: A woman for our time (Penguin, 2020).

Jacqueline Kent reviews 'The Most I Could Be: A Renaissance story' by Dale Kent

July 2021, no. 433 27 May 2021
There’s a Judy Horacek cartoon in which a woman tells a friend that she once intended to be the perfect wife, a domestic goddess. When the friend asks, ‘So what happened?’, the woman replies, ‘They taught me to read.’ Many women will relate to this, perhaps including Dale Kent (no relation to this reviewer). The Most I Could Be is the story of her struggle to reconcile her 1950s upbring ... (read more)

Jacqueline Kent reviews 'Killing Sydney: The fight for a city’s soul' by Elizabeth Farrelly and 'Sydney (Second Edition)' by Delia Falconer

March 2021, no. 429 22 February 2021
Poor old Sydney. If it isn’t being described as crass and culturally superficial, it’s being condemned for allowing developers to obliterate whatever natural beauty it ever had. Is it doomed, will it survive, and if so, what kind of city is it likely to be? Elizabeth Farrelly is here to provide answers to these and other questions. An architect, former City of Sydney Councillor, and tertiary ... (read more)

Jacqueline Kent reviews 'Mary’s Last Dance: The untold story of the wife of Mao’s Last Dancer' by Mary Li

December 2020, no. 427 26 November 2020
The cover of this book tells you pretty much what to expect. It shows the dancer Li Cunxin, evidently at rehearsal, facing the camera while over his shoulder peeps his wife, Mary. Add the subtitle, that this is the ‘untold story’ of Li Cunxin’s wife, with a foreword by the man himself, and it’s clear that this book might not have seen the light of day without the phenomenal success of Mao ... (read more)

Jacqueline Kent reviews 'Radio Girl: The story of the extraordinary Mrs Mac, pioneering engineer and wartime legend' by David Dufty

June–July 2020, no. 422 26 May 2020
At first glance, this biography does not look especially compelling. Why should we want to know about Australia’s first woman radio pioneer? But David Dufty calmly and quietly shows why Violet McKenzie is well worth celebrating. From her earliest days, Violet, born in 1890, showed great flair for practical science. She became a high school maths teacher but was determined to study electrical en ... (read more)

Jacqueline Kent reviews 'She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life' by Donna Ward

May 2020, no. 421 27 April 2020
The confusing aspects of this book begin with the title, She I Dare Not Name. Instead, there is a whole book about this person, a self-described spinster. Then there’s the S-word itself, which has carried a heavy negative load since about the seventeenth century. (A minor irritation is the back-cover blurb, which describes this as ‘a book about being human’ – as distinct from being what?) ... (read more)

'The Unsentimental Bloke: Kenneth Cook and Wake in Fright' by Jacqueline Kent

November 2009, no. 316 01 November 2009
Kenneth Cook was always a little surprised by the success of Wake in Fright. He dismissed it as a young man’s novel, as indeed it was; he published it in 1961, when he was thirty-two. Among his sixteen other works of fiction he was prouder of Tuna (1967), a partial reimagining of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea set off the coast of South Australia, and The Man Underground (1977), which dea ... (read more)

Jacqueline Kent reviews 'The Hilton Bombing: Evan Pederick and the Ananda Marga' by Imre Salusinszky

December 2019, no. 417 26 November 2019
Since 9/11 and all its attendant horrors, the story of the bomb that exploded outside Sydney’s Hilton Hotel early on the morning of 13 February 1978, killing three people and injuring nine others, has largely been cast aside. However, it is considered the worst terrorist act perpetrated on Australian soil. It had wide ramifications at the time, and murky issues still surround it. ... (read more)

Jacqueline Kent reviews 'Tim Costello: A lot with a little' by Tim Costello

October 2019, no. 415 25 September 2019
This autobiography by Tim Costello – Baptist minister, lawyer, anti-casino activist, CEO of World Vision Australia for thirteen years – is a clear and straightforward account of his life, free of obvious literary artifice. What Costello has tried to do, he says, is to understand and explain how his memories and experiences, especially of childhood and family life, have made him develop as an a ... (read more)

Jacqueline Kent reviews 'Faber & Faber: The untold history of a great publishing house' by Toby Faber

June–July 2019, no. 412 23 May 2019
The ‘untold history’ of Faber & Faber should be a cause for celebration. For so many of us, possessing the unadorned, severe paperbacks with the lower-case ‘ff’ on the spine meant graduation to serious reading: coming of literary age by absorbing the words and thoughts of Beckett, Eliot, Larkin, Stoppard, Hughes, Plath, Miłosz, Golding, Ishiguro, Heaney, Carey, Golding, Barnes – Dju ... (read more)
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