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Sue Ebury

Heather Menzies was ‘the apple of her father’s eye’, reported A.W. Martin, Sir Robert’s authorised biographer, and this collection of letters reveals that she was indeed, to use her father’s own words, ‘the great unalloyed joy of my life’. So much so that Ken, her elder brother, confessed to being jealous of her in his younger days. Heather married Australian diplomat Peter Henderson in 1955 and moved to Jakarta, when these letters begin, but her political education began years beforehand. In a letter that Menzies wrote to Ken (not published here), who was serving in the Australian forces during the war, he proudly describes his sixteen-year-old daughter’s ‘sotto voce comments in the galleries during speeches by such favourites as Forde and Ward and Evatt … [as] worth going a long way to hear’. This extremely close relationship and sharing of political values between father and daughter had an interesting precedent: Dame Pattie had enjoyed a similar bond with her father, the politician and manufacturer John William Leckie. Politics was the stuff of life for the Menzies family, both in Opposition and government. Heather accompanied her parents on official engagements that included overseas trips to India in 1951 and London in 1952, and travelled with them on the hustings during electoral campaigns.

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‘Thank God I have done with him!’ – the words uttered by Dr Johnson’s publisher when he received the final proofs of the dictionary from its author – might well have been Peter Ryan’s own in 1988 when Manning Clark confessed that he had changed his mind about the character and career of Robert Menzies. No longer did Clark consider him an ‘imperialistic booby’. Melbourne University Press was about to publish the final volume of Clark’s History of Australia, and the book was printing as the author confessed that he no longer believed his own, uncomplimentary text. This, for Clark’s publisher, Peter Ryan, was ‘the last straw’ in their tumultuous publishing relationship of twenty-six years. He boycotted the launch, and five years later he let fly in the pages of Quadrant with a critical attack on the press’s most profitable author, his methodology, and his work.

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Those Who Come After by Elisabeth Holdsworth

April 2011, no. 330

Wirklich, ich lebe in finsteren Zeiten. 
(Truly, I live in dark times.)

When her mother uttered that line from Bertolt Brecht’s great poem ‘An die Nachgeborenen’, Juliana – the narrator of Elisabeth Holdsworth’s first novel – knew they were in for a hard time. Janna had returned to the Netherlands from Da ...

What if Kenneth Myer, not Sir John Kerr, had been Australia’s governor-general in 1975? There would still have been storms in Canberra, but no intervention, no Dismissal. Readers of Sue Ebury’s fascinating biography of Myer (1921–92) may be tempted to play the ‘what if’ game, speculating on how Gough Whitlam might have used a full second term as prime minister.

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Over 35,000 copies of the hardback edition of Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop’s war diaries had been sold before they were reissued in paperback. Now Sue Ebury, who edited those diaries for publication, has written an accompanying ‘Life’. An impish picture of the older Weary in a sportscoat looking rather smaller than he really was grins beneath his name written in gold on a red silk background. In the paper edition it will surely be embossed.

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