The author and critic Richard Ellmann died in May 1987, a handful of months before the publication of his biography of Oscar Wilde. Twenty years in the making, the book instantly established a benchmark in literary biography. Psychologically astute and critically nuanced, Oscar Wilde invites ...... (read more)
Old friendships and close collaborations between author and subject can be either a blessing or a curse in biography – a tightrope between discretionary tact and open fire. Both call for intimate but balanced subjectivity, especially where virile egos are concerned. The Boy from Brunswick, a massive tome with sixty chapters and 540 pages, offers a bit of everything ...... (read more)
In September 2018, NewSouth published a new edition of A Certain Style.
On a chilly evening in 1980, a stylish woman in her early seventies, wheezing slightly from a lifetime’s cigarettes, climbed a staircase just beneath the Harbour Bridge, entered a room full of book editors – young women mostly, university-educated, making their way ...
General ‘Pompey’ Elliott was a famous Australian in 1918, half forgotten seventy years later, and is now a national military hero. This Anzac Day he stood high. On French soil he was praised by France’s prime minister, Édouard Philippe, in one of the most mesmerising and sensitive speeches ever offered by a European leader to Australian ears ...... (read more)
Geordie Williamson reviews 'In Search of Mary Shelley: The girl who wrote Frankenstein' by Fiona Sampson
A healthy suspicion should surround books that arrive neatly on some commemorative due date – in this case, the bicentenary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It is not that biographer Fiona Sampson is less than able and diligent in her efforts to celebrate a novel which has resonated like ...... (read more)
Geoffrey Blainey reviews 'Three Duties and Talleyrand’s Dictum: Keith Waller: Portrait of a working diplomat' by Alan Fewster
Keith Waller was one of the top ambassadors in a period when Australia urgently needed them. During the Cold War, he served in Moscow and then Washington, where a skilled resident diplomat could be more important than a visiting prime minister ...... (read more)
My earliest memory of Princess Margaret is flicking through my grandmother’s copy of 'The Australian Women’s Weekly' and seeing photographs of a middle-aged woman, in huge sunglasses and a colourful kaftan, on a tropical island. I surmised she was famous but did not know why. My grandmother explained ...... (read more)
Readers of this review are warned that they are in the presence of an addict. Having read Anthony Powell’s monumental twelve-volume Dance to the Music of Time three times, I had been trying not to succumb to a fourth. Then along comes Hilary Spurling’s brilliant biography and will power has suffered total defeat ...... (read more)
There has been an argument going on in the Liberal Party about the nature of the Menzies heritage – was Robert Menzies, the founder of the modern party, a liberal or a conservative? Notably absent from this discussion has been the national figure who was the first leader of a united anti-Labor party and who also happens to have been a father of Federation, Alfred ...
This fascinating volume on the fate of Clara (Claretta) Petacci, mistress to Benito Mussolini, by distinguished historian R.J.B. Bosworth, is a meticulously researched and multi-layered account tracing the fateful relationship between the fascist dictator and his younger paramour. From the genesis of the affair to its well-known aftermath, Bosworth enlivens our unde ...