Biography and Memoirs

Alex O'Brien reviews 'Mr Snack and the Lady Water'

Alex O'Brien
27 August 2013

Much travel is unpleasant (with over-expectations, too many tourists, and long distances from Australia), but even the sedentary or timorous persist with it in some ‘misguided duty to culture’, as Brendan Shanahan describes in his first collection of essays, Mr Snack and the Lady Water. Assembling journeys from the mid-1990s until now, Shanahan reco ... More

Alistaire Bowler reviews 'A Lasting Record'

Alistaire Bowler
27 June 2013

In A Lasting Record, journalist and food writer Stephen Downes recounts the serendipitous tale of an eccentric music lover from Melbourne who, with a primitive home recording device, captured the only extant recording of American pianist William Kapell’s final performance. Downes vacillates between biography, literature, diary, and musicological criti ... More

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Boy, Lost'

Gillian Dooley
27 June 2013

Boy, Lost is a sad and shocking memoir, unique in particulars but not in broad outline. Domestic violence and psychological sadism lie at its heart.

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Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'A Flower Between the Cracks'

Jay Daniel Thompson
27 May 2013

A Flower Between the Cracks, South Australian writer Helen Sage’s first book, chronicles her experience of caring for a disabled child over a period of several years. Sage’s busy but comfortable life was changed irrevocably when her daughter, Jayne, was involved in a horrific car accident. Prior to this, Jayne had been a psychology honours student who lov ... More

Ray Cassin on The Life of Pope Pius XII

Ray Cassin
27 May 2013

Not the least portent of change in the Catholic Church since the Argentine Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio was elected as Pope Francis earlier this year has been mounting speculation that the new pontiff will disclose all documents in the Vatican archives concerning the most controversial of his twentieth-century predecessors, Eugenio Pacelli, who reigned as Pius XII from 19 ... More

Shannon Burns reviews 'Hawthorne’s Habitations: A Literary Life'

Shannon Burns
27 May 2013

Unlike Hawthorne: A Life (2003), Brenda Wineapple’s penetrating and engaging biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hawthorne’s Habitations, is a work of literary criticism informed by a narrow but fascinating range of biographical details and sources. These details support Robert Milder’s construction of an author ‘divided’ by ... More

Ian Dickson on 'Wotan’s Daughter: The Life of Marjorie Lawrence'

Ian Dickson
27 May 2013

The career of Marjorie Lawrence is one of the great might-have-beens of operatic history. The saga of a young Australian woman who, in an astonishingly short period of time, became a leading singer first at the Paris Opéra and then at New York’s Metropolitan and who was poised to become the Met’s prima donna assoluta in the Wagnerian repertory when disas ... More

Harry Oldmeadow on a new biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Harry Oldmeadow
26 May 2013

The title of Ray Monk’s biography of Robert Oppenheimer plays on several ‘centres’: the entrancing interior of the atom wherein physicists found the secrets of nuclear energy; the institutional centres of American intellectual life that served as Oppenheimer’s professional milieu; the seductive hubs of political power to which he felt a fatal attraction; his ... More

Sylvia Martin on 'Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John'

Sylvia Martin
26 May 2013

My Swedish neighbour is rebuilding. From my back garden I overheard her Australian builder loudly introducing her to a tradesman named Hans. ‘Now, we’re for it,’ he chortled. ‘It’ll be talk, talk, talk, no stopping you now.’ As I hung out the washing, I reflected that the Australian nervousness around ‘Continentals’ that Madeleine St John details so ... More

Rachel Robertson reviews 'Boomer & Me'

Rachel Robertson
26 April 2013

The last decade has seen a significant growth both in the number of motherhood memoirs and in books about autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Australia is no exception to this trend, and Jo Case, in Boomer & Me, makes a contribution to both fields. As someone who has written a motherhood memoir about autism, I am a sympathetic reviewer but might also be c ... More

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