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Carol Middleton

In 2009 Sonya Voumard read about a legal claim brought by Martin Bryant's mother, Carleen, against journalists Robert Wainwright and Paola Totaro, accusing them of using her personal manuscript, letters, and family photos without her permission in their book Born or Bred? Martin Bryant: The Making of a Mass Murderer. Struck by the complex ethics of the case ...

Western Australian novelist and academic Liz Byrski has written a memoir that explores the reality behind a World War II myth: the ground-breaking work done by plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe to repair the disfigured faces, hands, and lives of fighter pilots and crews. Byrski grew up during the war in East Grinstead, Sussex, near the hospital where McIndoe worked, ...

In her long-form essay Dear Life, columnist and fiction writer Karen Hitchcock considers how we in Australia treat the elderly and dying. To the task she brings her formidable skills as a writer and her experience at the coalface, working as a staff physician in a Melbourne public hospital. The result is a sensitive, rigorous, and moving account that ex ...

Graeme Leith’s intention in writing this memoir was to pass on his knowledge and experience as chief winemaker of Passing Clouds winery in Victoria. Along the way, he discovered there was a lot more to say about his seventy-three years of life as an adventurer, larrikin, and family man. The result is almost an autobiography, complete with photographs, traci ...

Apart from a brief stint as an actor, Hannie Rayson has spent her professional life writing plays, fourteen of them. Now she has shone the spotlight on her own life and brought her sense of dramatic conflict, emotional range and laugh-out-loud humour to her memoir, Hello, Beautiful!


The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader

March 2015, no. 369

This début novel by poet and author Robyn Cadwallader has its genesis in her PhD thesis on attitudes to virginity in the Middle Ages. Set in England in 1255, it is the story of Sarah, an anchoress or religious recluse, who chooses to be shut into a stone cell, measuring seven by nine paces, for life. She is seventeen.

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Pennsylvania Avenue is billed by the Melbourne Theatre Company as a world première, with the expectation that singer Bernadette Robinson’s new one-woman show will travel the world, like her previous one, Songs for Nobodies (MTC, 2010). In that show, Robinson inhabited several ‘nobodies’ and the famous singers they encounter. When, in November 2012, I interviewed Robinson in the run-up to the final Melbourne season, she let me in on a secret. She had plans for a new production that would showcase divas who have appeared at Carnegie Hall.

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Susan Mitchell’s fifteenth book is a biography of the Whitlams, published shortly before Gough’s death in November. As a broadcaster, journalist, and author who has examined the lives of prominent Australian women, Mitchell tells the story mainly from Margaret’s perspective. This is not surprising: Mitchell had already amassed a huge body of research for her book Margaret Whitlam: A Biography (2006), and had known her since the late 1970s. And, compared to his frank and affable wife, Gough was less willing to share his personal recollections.

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Nest by Inga Simpson

October 2014, no. 365

Inga Simpson’s second novel is set in the lush subtropical hinterland of Australia’s east coast. Jen, a reclusive artist, goes back to where she grew up and where her father was a timber-cutter, to find peace among the birds and trees. But mysteries and disappearances trouble her idyllic life.

Like her artist protagonist, Simpson has acute powers of observation and an ability to capture nature on the page. The vivid colours of rainforest birds and the intricate growth of forests, set to a soundtrack of birdsong, lulls the reader. However, the nesting theme threads together a narrative more fragile than compelling.

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Silvia Kwon’s début novel explores the legacy of war on an Australian family, seen mainly through the eyes of the wife of a returned soldier. The prologue comprises a vivid and disturbing flashback to Burma in 1944, where Merna’s husband Frank spent time ‘on the line’.

Although narrated in the third person, this is Merna’s story, told from the point of view of a wife torn between the conflicting needs of husband and son. Back on the farm in the 1960s in the Wimmera, against a backdrop of endless drought, Frank struggles to keep afloat, while his son sets his sights on a distant land of opportunity, Japan. Merna takes on the role of peacemaker in a battle between the two men, whose opposing outlooks provide the novel’s source of conflict.

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