‘Write about what you don’t know,’ British novelist Rose Tremain advised young authors. That has been her own strategy during a long and star-studded career. It is quite a stretch from the court of England’s Charles II in Restoration (1989), or that of Christian IV of Denmark in Music and Silence (1999), or that of the muddy goldfields of The Colour (2003) set in nineteenth-century New Zealand, or The Road Home (2008), which movingly reveals an East European migrant’s struggles in today’s London. Impressive research and an imagination that flourishes on challenge have made Tremain one of the finest and least predictable of novelists.
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
Sounds and Furies: The love–hate relationship between women and slang by Jonathon GreenReviewed by Amanda Laugesen
CommentaryReviewed by Johanna Leggatt