Biography and Memoirs

Dorothy Driver reviews 'Divided Lives' by Lyndall Gordon

Dorothy Driver
16 December 2014

Two thirds of the way into Lyndall Gordon’s part memoir, part maternal biography, there is an episode of profound risk to the self. At the age of twenty-four, having recently moved from Cape Town to New York, Gordon is being treated for post-partum depression. This is 1966. Electro-convulsive therapy seems not to have helped, and her psychiatrist is urging longer- ... More

Lyndon Megarrity reviews 'Kevin Rudd' by Patrick Weller

Lyndon Megarrity
16 December 2014

In modern Australia, politics and public policy appear to reflect a narrow range of managerial, political, and economic opinions. Even the much publicised ‘listening tours’ conducted by politicians seem designed to show that they are sensitive to community concerns, but not so sensitive as to want to change policy direction. What makes current discussion of poli ... More

Martin Thomas reviews 'Battarbee and Namatjira' by Martin Edmond

Martin Thomas
15 December 2014

There was something of the alchemist in Albert Namatjira. Using the most liquescent of media, he created impressions of the driest terrain. Painting in watercolour involves the fluid dispersal of pigment. Yet in Namatjira we find colours distilled in such a way that each landscape glows with a quiet intensity. This evocation of light reveals the influence of Rex Bat ... More

Carol Middleton reviews 'Margaret and Gough' by Susan Mitchell

Carol Middleton
25 November 2014

Susan Mitchell’s fifteenth book is a biography of the Whitlams, published shortly before Gough’s death in November. As a broadcaster, journalist, and author who has examined the lives of prominent Australian women, Mitchell tells the story mainly from Margaret’s perspective. This is not surprising: Mitchell had already amassed a huge body of research for her b ... More

Michael Shmith reviews 'Rules of Engagement' by Kim Williams

Michael Shmith
24 November 2014

What this is not, as Kim Williams is quick to tell us (introduction, paragraph two), is a dog-bites-Murdoch account of that nasty business in August 2013 that saw Williams summarily ousted as chief executive of News Corp Australia. Other disgruntled former Ruprechtian courtiers such as former editor-in-chief of The Herald Sun Bruce Guthrie, who sought and won ... More

Delia Falconer reviews 'What Days Are For' by Robert Dessaix

Delia Falconer
24 November 2014

Robert Dessaix’s authorial voice reminds me of Christina Stead’s description of a small, clear wave running up a beach at low tide, playfully ‘ringing its air-bells’. He is not a writer of direct, declarative prose. Instead, Dessaix specialises in sentences that skip over and around their subjects, sometimes darting nimbly into brackets to investigate a seco ... More

Neal Blewett reviews 'My Story' by Julia Gillard

Neal Blewett
21 November 2014

Much like her government, Julia Gillard’s memoir resembles the proverbial curate’s egg. Where her passions are involved, as with education (‘Our Children’) or the fair work laws, we are provided with a compelling policy read. Where they are not, as in large slabs of foreign policy, the insightful competes with the pedestrian, enlivened admittedly with her pe ... More

Crusader Hillis reviews 'Lesbian for a Year' by Brooke Hemphill

Crusader Hillis
31 October 2014

Brooke Hemphill knows hers was not meant to be an ordinary existence, yet by her early twenties she is engaged and planning the perfect wedding – with the wrong guy. She breaks it off and moves in with a married man. He, too, is wrong for her. She works on an island resort and falls for another, but he takes off for Europe. She travels to the United States and wor ... More

Dina Ross reviews 'Jean Galbraith' by Meredith Fletcher

Dina Ross
30 October 2014

The last photographs taken of Jean Galbraith show a wrinkled woman in her eighties, with wispy hair pulled back in a bun, wearing round tortoiseshell spectacles, thick stockings, and sensible shoes – the kind of person you might expect to see serving behind the counter of a country post office early last century, or pouring en ... More

Tom Griffiths on coming of age in the Great Acceleration

Tom Griffiths
27 October 2014

I am a ‘Sputnik’, born in the year the Soviet satellite launched the Cold War into space. The launching by the Russians of the first artificial Earth satellite on 4 October 1957 seemed to many in the West a threatening symbol of escalating superpower rivalry. And it did unleash extreme military anxiety and triggered what became known as the Space Race. Twelve ye ... More

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