Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Her Mother’s Daughter: A memoir' by Nadia Wheatley

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Her Mother’s Daughter: A memoir' by Nadia Wheatley

Her Mother’s Daughter: A memoir

by Nadia Wheatley

Text Publishing, $34.99 pb, 324 pp, 9781925603491

When John Norman Wheatley met Nina Watkin in Germany in 1946, he would have regarded her as a lesser being on all fronts: woman to his man, forty to his forty-eight, Australian to his English, nurse to his doctor. They met as fellow employees of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), working with wartime refugees from an assortment of European countries. In this heartbreaking memoir of her mother Nina, or ‘Neen’, Nadia Wheatley writes:

UNRRA is another of the magic words of my childhood, words that set my mother apart from the mothers who pick up my classmates after school, the mothers who play tennis, and  have short permed hair, and seem to have had no life before their children were born … the word ‘UNRRA’ turns on a light inside Neen, a light  that shines in her eyes.

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Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy won the 2013 Pascall Prize. A former Editor of ABR (1986–87), she is one of Australia’s most prolific and respected literary critics. She taught for almost two decades at the University of Melbourne. Her publications include several anthologies, a critical study of Helen Garner, and her recent book Adelaide, which was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2012. In November 2012 she was named as the inaugural ABR Ian Potter Foundation Fellow. Her Fellowship article on reviewing, ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, appeared in the May 2013 issue of ABR.

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