Judith Armstrong

Judith Armstrong reviews 'Reunion' by Andrea Goldsmith

Judith Armstrong
Friday, 25 October 2019

What’s the use,’ asks Alice before wandering away from her uncommunicative sister, ‘of a book without pictures or conversations?’ Grown-up readers can probably manage without the former, but it is unusual to find a novel with as little dialogue in it as Andrea Goldsmith’s Reunion, or one that so deliberately ignores the common injunction ‘Show, don’t tell.’

Yet Goldsmith has several books to her credit, including The Prosperous Thief, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2002, and for several years taught creative writing at Deakin University. Presumably she knows what she is doing. In point of fact, not only does this flouting of conventional rules come over as quite refreshing, it is in any case justified by the demands of the narrative.

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Judith Armstrong reviews 'Grace' by Robert Drewe

Judith Armstrong
Friday, 11 October 2019

The scope of this novel could hardly be more ambitious. It ranges from the landing ten thousand years ago of prehistoric men in primitive rafts on the shores of what would one day be known as the Kimberley, to the apparition of a young asylum seeker off a leaky, sinking boat in roughly the same locality during the present inhospitable times. In other words, it meets the challenge of major issues both immemorial and contemporary.

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Judith Armstrong reviews 'Lovesong' by Alex Miller

Judith Armstrong
Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Alex Miller has been named as a finalist in the 2009 Melbourne Prize for Literature, a rich award given triennially to a Victorian author for a body of work. It is hardly surprising that a writer who has twice won the Miles Franklin Award and frequently been the recipient of, or short-listed for, other prizes should be among ...

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Brian Matthews reviews 'Dymphna' by Judith Armstrong

Brian Matthews
Friday, 24 February 2017

In the summer of 1988 I was part of an Adelaide Writers Week symposium on biography, the stars of which were two justly famous and accomplished biographers – Victoria Glendinning and Andrew Motion.  I described that occasion at the time, like this:

I greatly admired Motion’s panache. As we ascended the podium to begin the se ...

Patti Miller has written four books of or about memoir, one of which, The Mind of a Thief (UQP, 2012) won the New South Wales Premier’s History Award, and she has taught life writing for more than twenty years. Yet her most recent publication, Ransacking Paris, while enjoyable at one level, is disappointing at another. There is a serious mismatch bet ...

Judith Armstrong reviews 'Goodbye Sweetheart' by Marion Halligan

Judith Armstrong
Thursday, 26 March 2015

Marion Halligan is a prolific writer, and this is not the first time I have reviewed one of her books. Once, when she branched out into the genre of lightweight crime – The Apricot Colonel (2006) and Murder on the Apricot Coast (2008) – I commented on the problem faced by Cassandra, the novel’s narrator. An editor-turned-author, she turns out boo ...

Judith Armstrong reviews 'Who We Were' by Lucy Neave

Judith Armstrong
Sunday, 26 May 2013

The nub of this first novel is a good one. Even those who weren’t alive in the early 1950s will have heard of Joseph McCarthy. Fired by the tensions of the Cold War but with scant regard for hard evidence, the US Republican senator made his reputation by accusing numerous individuals of communist sympathies, possible disloyalty, and/or treason. Intellectuals of ev ...

The 2012 centenary of the dramatic Scott–Amundsen race to reach the South Pole prompted several new non-fiction books on Antarctica. No fewer than five of them were reviewed in the December–January edition of London’s Literary Review, a welcome reminder of the superb Ferocious Summer (Profile Books, 2007) by Australian author Meredith Hooper, whi ...

Judith Armstrong, a Russian and French scholar, has translated the diaries of Tolstoy’s wife, Sonya, to form the focus of her second novel. Armstrong combines an intimate knowledge of Russian literature with a close reading of the couple’s diaries to create a convincing portrait of their volatile relationship through forty-eight years of marriage.


This is a book of rather brief short stories, few of which exceed a dozen pages. This leaves room for nineteen stories in a fairly short collection. Most of them read easily, each one effortlessly displacing its predecessor. There are, of course, standouts, to which I shall return, but the most striking overall characteristic is the distinctively personalised tone. The wide variety of personae ...