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Seumas Spark

Seumas Spark

Seumas Spark is co-author of the two volume Dunera Lives (Monash University Publishing, 2018 and 2020).

Seumas Spark reviews ‘Paul and Paula: A history of separation, survival and belonging’ by Tim McNamara

January-February 2024, no. 461 19 December 2023
In Working: Researching, interviewing, writing, published in 2019, the great biographer Robert A. Caro tells of his writing methods and the lengths to which he goes to gain a better understanding of his subject. Reading Tim McNamara’s Paul and Paula, I was reminded of Caro’s way of research and writing and of his determination to place himself in his subject’s milieu. McNamara spent consider ... (read more)

Seumas Spark reviews 'The Cowra Breakout' by Mat McLachlan

September 2022, no. 446 27 August 2022
Why do publishers do this? The cover of this book screams that the Cowra breakout is an ‘untold’ story, and ‘the missing piece of Australia’s World War II history’. Neither claim is remotely true, as the author himself acknowledges. Once we get past the sensationalist cover and into the text, Mat McLachlan notes that the story of the Cowra breakout has been told several times before, and ... (read more)

Seumas Spark reviews 'A Life in Words: Collected writings from Gallipoli to the Melbourne Cup' by Les Carlyon

December 2021, no. 438 25 October 2021
I guess every reviewer comes to a book with expectations, especially when the author’s reputation precedes him or her. On opening this collection, I knew that Les Carlyon (who died in 2019) wrote well. I remember my parents reading him in The Age and murmuring approval of his lyrical style and, sometimes, the content. I knew he loved horses, the track, and the punt. To me these were disappointme ... (read more)

Seumas Spark reviews 'Condemned: The transported men, women and children who built Britain’s empire' by Graham Seal

August 2021, no. 434 22 July 2021
The convict Thomas Brooks was transported to Sydney in 1818. He had been sentenced to seven years but would serve twenty-seven, with stints in some of Australia’s most brutal penal settlements. His life became a cycle of escape attempts, recapture, and punishment. Each grab for freedom made his chains heavier, the floggings ever more severe. Eventually the penal system broke him, his spirit and ... (read more)

Seumas Spark reviews 'Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack: More than a Bauhaus artist' by Resi Schwarzbauer with Chris Bell

June 2021, no. 432 26 May 2021
With his founding of the Bauhaus in 1919, the German architect Walter Gropius proposed a radical reimagining of the arts and crafts. His manifesto outlined the principles for an institution that would unify architecture, art, and design, creating ‘a new guild of craftsmen, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavoured to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists!’ At the ... (read more)

Seumas Spark reviews 'Australia’s Northern Shield? Papua New Guinea and the defence of Australia since 1880' by Bruce Hunt

Online Exclusives 07 December 2017
The subtitle of this book is Papua New Guinea and the Defence of Australia since 1880. Michael Somare, first prime minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG), is at the centre of the cover photograph, and the cover design uses red, yellow, and black, the colours of the PNG flag. Yet for much of this book PNG is at the periphery of the story. About two-thirds of the text concerns Indonesia: specifically, t ... (read more)

Seumas Spark reviews 'The Shadow Men: The leaders who shaped the Australian Army from the Veldt to Vietnam' edited by Craig Stockings and John Connor

September 2017, no. 394 29 August 2017
First, a quibble. In the first paragraph of his introduction, John Connor writes that few Australians could ‘name a significant figure of the Australian Army’, John Monash and Simpson (and his donkey) aside. I am less sure. A generation after his death, Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop remains a familiar name. Two of the past three governors-general, including the incumbent, served in the highest ran ... (read more)

Seumas Spark reviews 'Anzac Day Then and Now' edited by Tom Frame

June–July 2016, no. 382 23 May 2016
I hazard a guess that more books are published on Anzac – the day, the legend, the myth – than on any other subject in Australian history. The least of these contributions, which often harness the nebulous concept of the 'Anzac spirit' to tell whatever story the author is interested in, add little or nothing to our understanding of the place and role of Anzac in Australian society past and pre ... (read more)

Seumas Spark reviews 'A Little America in Western Australia' by Anthony J. Barker and Michael L. Ondaatje

March 2016, no. 379 25 February 2016
Visiting Australia in November 2011, President Obama announced plans for the deployment of United States marines to a Darwin base. The decision to establish a permanent American military presence in northern Australia, taken with the support of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Australian government, was part of the 'pivot' to Asia in US defence policy. The idea for this book emerged from the p ... (read more)