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HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Since his (involuntary) retirement from politics in 2007, John Howard has gone to some lengths to encourage comparisons with Robert Menzies. He authored a lengthy paean to Australia’s longest serving prime minister (2014), appeared in a television series to appraise his leadership and era (2016), and curated an exhibition on him at the Museum of Australian Democracy. And while he does not don the knightly robes that Menzies did on the cover of his volume of essays, The Measure of the Years (1970), Howard does ape Ming’s serene, far-seeing gaze on the dust jacket of this, his third book, A Sense of Balance.

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When out of government, the Coalition parties resemble nothing so much as an ill-disciplined horde, by turns bombastic and bilious, riven with discord, forever tearing down putative leaders and searching for scapegoats to explain their losses and lot. The blame almost always falls on the departed. In the 1980s, it was Malcolm Fraser’s unwillingness to undertake proper economic reform that they most decried; after 2007, it was John Howard’s refusal to relinquish the leadership to Peter Costello. In Aaron Patrick’s new book, Ego, the blame is laid not at the feet of Scott Morrison, as might have been expected, but at those of Malcolm Turnbull.

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In the chaos that opened the Trump administration in 2017, foreign governments were looking for any and all insiders for information. Australia turned to Joe Hockey, who turned to golf. In this very readable account of the former treasurer’s four years in Washington (2016–20), Hockey tells us how he navigated ‘TRUMPAGEDDON’. This is a story replete with funny anecdotes and unsettling observations. Diplomatic leaves the reader convinced that diplomacy is more about art and luck than about science and process. It is also oddly reassuring about the vicissitudes that the Australia–United States relations can weather, even under the most weird leadership.

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oubtless there will come a time when one’s more disciplined reading self requires nourishment from serious books that offer sustained intellectual, creative, and moral challenges. In the meantime, books – in particular the contemporary urban novel – may continue to satisfy by being charming, delightful, witty, heart-warming, hilarious, astringently refreshing, sharply observed, and deliciously original.

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When Anne Shirley dreamed of finding a ‘bosom friend’ in Avonlea, she did more than conjure Diana Barry into existence. The heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908) imprinted on us an almost impossible standard for what to expect from our earliest female friendships: a lifelong source of joy sustained by a mutual devotion to each other’s best interests. More often than not, however – as the popularity of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels attests – childhood friendships are as complicated as any other. And when they rupture, whether through accident, argument, or design, the aftershocks can last well into adulthood.

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Dervla McTiernan’s third novel consolidates her standing as a star of Irish detective fiction, following her breakout début, The Rúin (2018), and its follow-up, The Scholar (2019), all featuring Detective Sergeant Cormac Reilly. Dublin dominates the imagination of Irish crime writing, but McTiernan’s stories centre around the western city of Galway and the small towns that surround it, places with pretty, smiling exteriors that mask darker moral and economic realities. For every cheerful local pub and beautiful seaside terrace there is a building lot abandoned in the wake of economic crisis and a cheaply constructed block of units with no heating and a rent-gouging landlord.

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In the early eighteenth century, smallpox inoculations were introduced to England and promoted by the charismatic Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, one of the many scintillating characters in David Isaacs’s outstanding book Defeating the Ministers of Death ...

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On Identity by Stan Grant & Australia Day by Stan Grant

by
August 2019, no. 413

It was a great moment in Australian history when William Cooper walked to the Australian parliament to object to the treatment of Jews in Germany during World War II. At the time, the British and Australian parliaments were ambivalent about the atrocities occurring across Europe ...

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When asked to review Sea People: The puzzle of Polynesia, I thought it might be hard work – improving, but not necessarily fun. I could not have been more wrong. The book is a triumph. Exploring the remarkable history of Polynesian migration to the ‘vast triangle stretching from Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island’, it is magnificently researched, assured, and elegant ...

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From the ill-fated explorations of Leichhardt and Burke and Wills through to the Beaumont children, Azaria Chamberlain, and the backpacker murders in New South Wales, the history of Australia is peppered with tales and images of people going missing. And, as the First Peoples might well have been able to warn us, few of those stories turn out well ...

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