Anna MacDonald reviews 'A Scandal in Bohemia: The life and death of Mollie Dean' by Gideon Haigh

Anna MacDonald reviews 'A Scandal in Bohemia: The life and death of Mollie Dean' by Gideon Haigh

A Scandal in Bohemia: The life and death of Mollie Dean

by Gideon Haigh

Hamish Hamilton, $32.99 pb, 320 pp, 9780143789574

Anna MacDonald

Anna MacDonald

Anna MacDonald writes about spatial poetics and the topographical imagination. She has published numerous essays on W.G. Sebald, Gaston

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A Scandal in Bohemia: The life and death of Mollie Dean is Gideon Haigh’s engrossing account of the circumstances surrounding the unsolved 1930 murder in Elwood of primary school teacher, aspiring journalist, and bohemian, Mollie Dean. Less true crime journalism than an interrogation of the genre, Haigh’s meticulously researched book recalls the ‘thick description’ of cultural history, which in historian Greg Dening’s words conveys ‘the fullness of living’ at a particular time, in a particular place. In this instance, the time and place are Melbourne in the 1920s and 1930s and, more specifically, the ‘virtual Melbourne Bloomsbury’ (as it is described by biographer and memoirist Gary Kinnane) of the group of artists, writers, musicians, and intellectuals with whom Mollie Dean became entangled. This group included chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Hart, The Bulletin’s Mervyn Skipper and his wife, Lena, poets Louis Lavater and Frank Wilmot, writers Bernard Cronin and Vance and Nettie Palmer, and artists Max Meldrum, Clarice Beckett, Justus Jorgensen, and Colin Colahan among others.

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Published in April 2018, no. 400