Biography and Memoirs

Johanna Leggatt reviews 'Whiteley on Trial' by Gabriella Coslovich

Johanna Leggatt
26 October 2017

It was the late Robert Hughes who said that ‘apart from drugs, art is the biggest unregulated market in the world’. Journalist Gabriella Coslovich quotes him in her account of the 2016 More

Simon Caterson reviews 'The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller: An Australian’s true story of adventure, danger, romance and murder' by Carol Baxter

Simon Caterson
30 April 2017

Among the glittering generation of pioneering aviators and aviatrixes of the 1920s and 1930s, Jessie ‘Chubbie’ Miller stands out as remarkably adventurous. Carol Baxter’s highly readable biography provides an engaging portrait of a young suburban housewife who decided, quite literally, to make her own way in the world. As Baxter acknowledges, for a biographer ... More

Varun Ghosh reviews 'Born to Run' by Bruce Springsteen

Varun Ghosh
28 February 2017

‘I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with a bit of fraud. So am I.’ Thus begins the captivating autobiography of Bruce Springsteen. No treacly guitar man’s reminiscence, Born to Run grapples with the trickier paradoxes of family, love, mental illness, and musical success. At turns confessional and unapologetic, sentimental a ... More

Susan Lever reviews 'Ink in Her Veins: The troubled life of Aileen Palmer' by Sylvia Martin

Susan Lever
23 May 2016

In her new biography, Sylvia Martin tells us that Aileen Palmer wanted to be remembered as a poet. Until now, she has been best known as the elder daughter of Vance ...

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Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Long Run' by Catriona Menzies-Pike

Gillian Dooley
30 March 2016

When I heard that there was a new book out on why women run, I assumed I would be reading about women fleeing domestic horrors rather than running marathons. Such a reaction might make Catriona Menzies-Pike sigh with frustration, and the cultural myopia which gave rise to my unthinking assumption is one of the reasons she wrote this book. 'I'd read a lot of books ab ... More

Richard Freadman reviews 'On Life-Writing' edited by Zachary Leader

Richard Freadman
30 March 2016

Zachary Leader, respected biographer of Kingsley Amis and Saul Bellow, and editor of this volume of commissioned essays, defines life writing as 'a range of writings about lives or parts of lives, or which provide materials out of which lives or parts of lives are composed'. This formulation reflects the book's method, which is to provide a 'sampling' of various per ... More

Barney Zwartz reviews 'John le Carré' by Adam Sisman

Barney Zwartz
24 March 2016

Of all the stories John le Carré has invented – more than a score of novels, nearly all bestsellers – his own is perhaps the most fascinating. It is dominated by two characters, le Carré himself (real name David Cornwell) and his father, Ronnie.

Biographers naturally pay close attention to the influence of their subjects' parents, but seldom can they e ... More

Susan Sheridan reviews 'Call of the Outback' by Marianne van Velzen

Susan Sheridan
24 March 2016

The long subtitle of this biography says it all. Hill was an immensely popular and influential travel writer in the 1930s and 1940s. Her books The Great Australian Loneliness (1937) and The Territory (1951) gathered together and built on the many stories she had written for city newspapers. She also published histories of the flying doctor medical ... More

Josephine Taylor reviews 'The Bauhinia Tree' by Kankawa Nagarra Olive Knight

Josephine Taylor
26 February 2016

Kankawa Nagarra Olive Knight is a leader in the Wangkatjungka community, south-east of Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley. For The Bauhinia Tree, her eventful seventy-year life story was recorded by Terri-ann White, then 'transcribed and refined' by White and Kankawa Knight. While the material has been edited to remove hesitations and interventions, the oral ... More

Fiona Hile reviews 'Good Night and Good Riddance' by David Cavanagh

Fiona Hile
25 February 2016

When Napoleon called England a nation of shopkeepers he claimed to have meant it as a compliment. Its grand resources were not constituted by extensive territories, natural resources, or a burgeoning population, but in the accumulation and dissemination of wares. In Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move (2008), John Plotz remarks that certain obj ... More

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