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Bernadette Brennan

Bernadette Brennan

Bernadette Brennan is a former Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Sydney, and a former President of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL). Dr Brennan has published widely on various aspects of Australian literature. She is currently working on a critical biography of Helen Garner.

Bernadette Brennan reviews 'Draw Your Weapons' by Sarah Sentilles

August 2017, no. 393 23 July 2017
‘Thinking is my fighting.’ Virginia Woolf Sarah Sentilles’s Draw Your Weapons is one of the most erudite, original, and thought-provoking books I have ever read. A philosophical and moral meditation on pain, torture, and the violence of war – part memoir, part history, even a kind of secular prayer – this book asks us to look at terrible human darkness while also celebrating the ways i ... (read more)

Bernadette Brennan reviews 'The Last Garden' by Eva Hornung

June-July 2017, no. 392 29 May 2017
The epigraph to the first chapter of Eva Hornung’s The Last Garden speaks of Nebelung, a time of great prosperity, joy, and hope for new life. Over the page, Hornung shatters any sense of well-being with an extraordinary opening sentence: ‘On a mild Nebelung’s afternoon, Matthias Orion, having lived as an exclamation mark in the Wahrheit settlement and as the capital letter at home, killed h ... (read more)

The Testament of Mary (Sydney Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 23 January 2017
The opening scene of the The Testament of Mary sets the tone of this excellent production and dramatises brilliantly Colm Tóibín’s radical reassessment of Mary as the Mother of God. Elizabeth Gadsby’s dark marble set, bordered by a red velvet rope, holds one empty chair, one empty cardboard box. Two stairs lead to a tall, seemingly solid marble arch. A sepulchre? No. When the lights come up, ... (read more)

Speed-the-Plow (Sydney Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 14 November 2016
There has been considerable media hype about Rose Byrne’s return to the Sydney stage in the STC’s new production of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow. When she does finally appear, as Karen, the somewhat gormless temporary secretary to the newly promoted movie executive Bobby Gould (Damon Herriman), she is a delight. But it is Damon Herriman who is the real star of this production. Speed-the-Plo ... (read more)

Bernadette Brennan reviews 'A Companion to the Works of Kim Scott' edited by Belinda Wheeler

September 2016, no. 384 22 August 2016
In 2004 Kim Scott delivered the prestigious Herbert Blaiklock Memorial Lecture to a predominantly academic audience at the University of Sydney. Provocatively, he began by saying that he did not know much about Australian literature; the literature of this country did not reflect his experiences or his sense of identity. It certainly was not the literature of his country. Scott wanted to question ... (read more)

Bernadette Brennan reviews 'A Few Days in the Country and Other Stories' by Elizabeth Harrower

December 2015, no. 377 25 November 2015
It is gratifying to witness the renewal of interest in Elizabeth Harrower's fiction. Last year, In Certain Circles, Harrower's fifth novel, written in 1971, was finally published. Now, for the first time, a collection of her short fiction is available. Earlier versions of five of the twelve stories from A Few Days in the Country and Other Stories, were published during the 1960s and 1970s in Austr ... (read more)

Bernadette Brennan reviews 'Second Half First' by Drusilla Modjeska

November 2015, no. 376 26 October 2015
Twenty-five years ago, Drusilla Modjeska's Poppy reimagined boldly the possibilities for Australian memoir. Modjeska recounts in her new memoir, Second Half First, how in her inaugural appearance at a writers' festival she was on a panel discussing autobiography with two established British writers, Victoria Glendinning and Andrew Motion. Poppy was written but not yet released. Feeling at a disadv ... (read more)

Bernadette Brennan reviews 'One Life' by Kate Grenville

April 2015, no. 370 26 March 2015
Kate Grenville’s mother, Nance Gee (née Russell), was an extraordinarily resourceful, resilient, and interesting woman. Born in 1912 to ill-matched, working-class parents and surviving a childhood lacking in stability and opportunity, she went on to become an inspirational mother, businesswoman, and teacher. Some years after her death in 2002, Grenville began sorting through Nance’s papers an ... (read more)

Reading Australia: 'The Children's Bach' by Helen Garner

May 2015, no. 371 24 March 2015
‘For our house is our corner of our world … If we look at it intimately, the humblest dwelling has beauty.’Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (1958) Houses, and their domestic spaces of intimacy and negotiation, sit at the core of Helen Garner’s early fiction. Most often they are large, communal houses in Melbourne’s Carlton or Fitzroy, places where a generation of youngish cou ... (read more)

Bernadette Brennan reviews 'In Certain Circles' by Elizabeth Harrower

May 2014, no. 361 27 April 2014
In her 2013 interview with Ramona Koval, the octogenarian Elizabeth Harrower expressed an unreserved confidence that her novels ‘deserved to be found and … would be found’ by future generations of readers. There is no doubt that Harrower’s fiction deserves to be known, but without the initiative of Text Publishing these works may well have slid into obscurity. To date Text Classics have re ... (read more)
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