Biography and Memoirs

Fiona Gruber reviews 'Banksia Lady' by Carolyn Landon

Fiona Gruber
Wednesday, 30 September 2015

In March 2006, botanical illustrator Celia Rosser travelled to a remote station in Western Australia to witness and draw the first-ever recorded flowering of Banksia Rosserae. The spiky yellow spheres appear only after rain, which, in this arid part of the continent, can be years in the coming. The Australian plant had only been discovered four years earlier, ...

Kevin Orrman-Rossiter reviews 'Graeme Clark' by Mark Worthing

Kevin Orrman-Rossiter
Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The story of Graeme Clark and the cochlear implant is often seen as the exception to the research trope lauding the brilliance of Australians at basic research but lamenting their ineptness commercialising these opportunities. This book is an adulatory story of Clark’s life.

Clark’s exceptional and driven journey is breathlessly relat ...

I vaguely knew about Fred Rose as somebody ASIO was after in the 1950s, a communist blackened in the Petrov case who went off to live in the German Democratic Republic. During the Cold War, that kind of boundary crossing was usually definitive. If you went over the wall, you stayed over.

Not Fred Rose. He went over the wall to the GDR, but after that he kept ...

Few, if any, contemporary authors have attracted the level of critical attention that is lavished upon J.M. Coetzee. No doubt there are many reasons for this, but a good part of the fascination with his fiction is a result of the evident rigour with which it is conceived. To read a Coetzee novel is to encounter a work that seems to have ...

You could call central casting for a debonair man of letters, but they’d never send someone as perfect for the role as Gore Vidal. By the time the stylish, sharp-witted – and yes, Hollywood-handsome – Vidal turned twenty-one, he had already served as first mate on a US supply ship in the Aleutian Islands duri ...

James McNamara reviews 'Penguin and the Lane Brothers'

James McNamara
Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Penguin is synonymous with publishing: a firm of vast influence and market share, whose ‘Classics’ imprint essentially arbitrates the modern canon. The founding myth goes something like this: Allen Lane, eccentric genius and publisher, was standing on a railway platform after a weekend with his chum, Agatha Christie. In want of a decent, cheap read, he visited a ...

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Thea Astley' by Karen Lamb

Kerryn Goldsworthy
Monday, 24 August 2015

‘If there are going to be any more of her novels, perhaps we should come right out and promote her as an utter bitch?’

So wrote Alec Bolton, the London manager of Angus & Robertson, to his senior editor John Abernethy in Sydney. The novelist in question was Thea Astley, and the book was A Boat Load of Home Folk (1968). Bol ...

Patti Miller has written four books of or about memoir, one of which, The Mind of a Thief (UQP, 2012) won the New South Wales Premier’s History Award, and she has taught life writing for more than twenty years. Yet her most recent publication, Ransacking Paris, while enjoyable at one level, is disappointing at another. There is a serious mismatch bet ...

Lyndon Megarrity reviews 'Through the Wall' by Anna Bligh

Lyndon Megarrity
Friday, 29 May 2015

After a substantial career as a minister in the Beattie government, Anna Bligh served as Queensland Labor premier from 2007 to 2012. She was the first female premier in Australia to lead her party to victory at a state election. These experiences have given her many interesting tales to tell about winning elections, retaining community and party support, as well as ...

Geoffrey Blainey reviews 'Bearing Witness' by Peter Rees

Geoffrey Blainey
Thursday, 28 May 2015

Charles Bean is now seen as one of the classiest journalists and historians Australia has produced. Like many talented historians, he had no prior training in his craft, except as a war correspondent during World War I, when he wrote in the face of daily and nightly dangers such as most war journalists no longer have to confront.

I have the strong impression ...