Nearly seven years ago, David Lodge had the bad luck to collide with Colm Tóibín when both writers produced a novel about Henry James. Tóibín was the first to publish; his work The Master (2004) won high praise and a Booker Prize nomination. Lodge’s Author, Author (2004), trailing six months behind, suffered in the inevitable comparisons. There had been plenty of excitement about the idea of using the novel form to tell the story of this famous life, but little was left for Lodge’s enterprise. Tóibín had used up most of the oxygen. If the order of publication had been reversed, it might have been different.
Brenda Niall’s writing career began during her time as an academic at Monash University, where she was Reader in the Department of English. Since 1995 she has been writing full time. Her books include award-winning biographies Martin Boyd: A Life (1988), Georgiana (1995), The Boyds (2002), Judy Cassab (2005), and a memoir, Life Class (2007). Her book The Riddle of Father Hackett was shortlisted for the 2010 Magarey Medal for Biography. She is a frequent reviewer for The Age and ABR, and has been a guest at the Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Byron Bay literary festivals. In 2004 she was awarded an AO for services to Australian Literature. Her latest book is Can You Hear the Sea? My grandmother's story (Text Publishing, 2018).
From the New Issue
BiographyReviewed by Ken Ward
The China Journals: Ideology and intrigue in the 1960s by Hugh Trevor-Roper, edited by Richard Davenport-HinesReviewed by Nicholas Jose
The Other Side of Absence: Discovering my father’s secrets by Betty O’NeillReviewed by Iva Glisic