Viking

Anybody who knows a little about the role played by Australian horses in World War I will know that the story did not end well for the horses: 136,000 left these shores, and one returned. Readers of Morris Gleitzman’s Loyal Creatures (Viking, $19.99 pb, 160 pp) who are unaware of this statistic might be in for a shock.

At the outbreak of war, Frank Ballantyne, not quite sixteen, is working with his father, sinking bores and locating water for farmers in the outback. It is a skill that will serve Frank and the army well in the deserts of Egypt and Palestine, which, after lying about his age, he finally reaches – with his horse Daisy, and his father, who has also enlisted – in 1915.

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Australia is a country that will not be intimidated by its own decency. On 28 August 2001, as a detail of Special Air Services soldiers was dispatched to MV Tampa, Prime Minister John Howard spoke about the 438 people – mostly Afghan Hazaras – who languished aboard the freighter ...

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Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan & Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester

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December 2013–January 2014, no. 357

Never ruin a perfect plan’ is one of the masterful Shaun Tan’s Rules of Summer (Lothian, $24.99 hb, 52 pp). On a bone-strewn landscape, four thimbles with legs, tails, and horned heads are caught mid-procession. Two of them carry a knife and fork twice their height. The smallest one has turned its Ned Kelly visor head to salute. In doing so, he has trodden unaware on the tail of the one in the lead, who is carrying a strawberry as big as himself. The tip of the tail lies under his foot, dropped like a skink’s. A crow watches from the shadows. The narrative in this one picture would be enough to keep a reader absorbed for hours. The many colours of summer are textured contrasts.

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Michael Fullilove, head of the Lowy Institute, has written about President Roosevelt and the men who helped him to guide the US so reluctantly into World War II. Dennis Altman reviews this model of academic research.

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In The Year It All Fell Down, journalist Bob Ellis revisits 2011, a year that, as the title suggests, produced social and political change on a global scale. The text provides a month-by-month account of this dramatic time. Ellis covers the Queensland floods and the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami ...

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Mary Bennet by Jennifer Paynter

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June 2012, no. 342

This début novel by Sydney playwright Jennifer Paynter is a skilful retelling of Pride and Prejudice, narrated by Mary Bennet, the forgotten middle sister. Mary’s character is true to Austen’s original conception. She is bookish, plain, and unloved, although romance soon appears on the horizon in this version of events.

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Any recent ‘big picture’ church history will suffer by comparison with Diarmaid MacCulloch’s A History of Christianity (2009). That book discovers all manner of new evidence about this protean religion and opens up questions about its life in every age and across every continent. Even its subtitle, The First Three Thousand Years, wants us to appreciate that Christianity has to be understood through its origins in the Hebrew and Greek cultures of the millennium before Bethlehem. Geoffrey Blainey’s history begins more conventionally with the birth of Jesus.

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In January this year the New York Times ran a controversial review article titled ‘The Problem with Memoirs’, in which staffer Neil Genzlinger praised ‘the lost art of shutting up’. He heaped scorn on ‘our current age of oversharing’ and on the accompanying glut of memoirs on every imaginable aspect of human experience. But he reserved particular scorn for what he identified as the latest trendy topic: ‘books by parents, siblings and teachers of people with autism.’ He advised, ‘If you’re jumping on a bandwagon, make sure you have better credentials than the people already on it.’

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In the early 1990s the cricket tour book, like the western movie, seemed dead and buried. The formulas played themselves out around 1970, though the genre had a strong structure which allowed for fitful new interpretations. Direct telecasts of Test cricket and video highlights of series appeared likely to kill the tour book. Who needed to read about it when, having witnessed the games ball by ball, judgement could be passed again with the aid of electronic recording equipment? Yet a Test series offered a strong structure on which a skilful author could make interesting variations.

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Mansfield was thirty-four. Having suffered tuberculosis for years, she died after hurrying up some stairs, intending to show her husband how well she was. This was at La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, house of George Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man: a sort of commune, organised around shamanic dancing, Eastern mysticism, and Gurdjieff’s compelling personality. For Mansfield, the Institute was not simply a last resort; she went there for a new beginning. In a letter to her friend Koteliansky, she wrote: ‘I mean to change my whole way of life entirely …’

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