Biography and Memoirs

Carol Middleton reviews 'Passing Clouds' by Graeme Leith

Carol Middleton
Thursday, 30 April 2015

Graeme Leith’s intention in writing this memoir was to pass on his knowledge and experience as chief winemaker of Passing Clouds winery in Victoria. Along the way, he discovered there was a lot more to say about his seventy-three years of life as an adventurer, larrikin, and family man. The result is almost an autobiography, complete with photographs, traci ...

Despite their disparate subject matter, the central concerns of Geoff Dyer’s books remain the same. Whether he is writing about photography, D.H. Lawrence, taking you scene-by-scene through Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, or, as in Another Great Day At Sea, spending two weeks aboard a US aircraft carrier, his abiding concerns – the self, the nature o ...

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Chasing Lost Time' by Jean Findlay

Colin Nettelbeck
Thursday, 30 April 2015

Jean Findlay had access to an impressive array of sources when writing this biography of her great-great uncle. She does not always make the best choices in navigating the mass of material: too many pages are cluttered with unsifted detail, and the family history genre often interferes with the biographical project of a significant public figure. However, the multip ...

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'Bloodhound' by Ramona Koval

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Monday, 27 April 2015

This engaging but disturbing memoir describes Ramona Koval’s obsessive attempts to find herself another father than the one who had brought her up, the ‘Dad’ who was married to ‘Mama’. Dad and Mama, along with most of their circle in 1950s Melbourne, were Jewish immigrants from Poland, among the tens of thousands who came to Australia as displaced persons ...

Carol Middleton reviews 'Hello, Beautiful' by Hannie Rayson

Carol Middleton
Monday, 30 March 2015

Apart from a brief stint as an actor, Hannie Rayson has spent her professional life writing plays, fourteen of them. Now she has shone the spotlight on her own life and brought her sense of dramatic conflict, emotional range and laugh-out-loud humour to her memoir, Hello, Beautiful!

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Crusader Hillis reviews 'The Boatman' by John Burbidge

Crusader Hillis
Friday, 27 March 2015

John Burbidge’s The Boatman was first published last year in India, by Yoda Press. Its moving afterword describes Burbidge’s return to India last year for the book launch and his attendance at an LGBT pride march there. Burbidge was struck by how strongly the cause of sexual rights had been embraced by other elements of Indian society who also face discri ...

Bernadette Brennan reviews 'One Life' by Kate Grenville

Bernadette Brennan
Thursday, 26 March 2015

Kate Grenville’s mother, Nance Gee (née Russell), was an extraordinarily resourceful, resilient, and interesting woman. Born in 1912 to ill-matched, working-class parents and surviving a childhood lacking in stability and opportunity, she went on to become an inspirational mother, businesswoman, and teacher. Some years after her death in 2002, Grenville began sor ...

Philippa Hawker reviews 'John Wayne' by Scott Eyman

Philippa Hawker
Thursday, 26 March 2015

‘I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne. I know him well. I’m one of his closest students. I have to be. I make a living out of him.’ In Scott Eyman’s biography John Wayne: The Life and Legend, these words, uttered by ‘Duke Morrison, aka John Wayne’, serve as an epigraph. They are a curious mixtur ...

Tim Colebatch reviews 'Paul Keating' by David Day

Tim Colebatch
Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Paul Keating has an enduring allure. He has been out of politics since 1996, yet in the past year or so we have seen the ABC screen an unprecedented series of four one-hour interviews with him by an unusually respectful Kerry O’Brien; a book of his sayings still sells well, his speeches and pronouncements receive wide publicity, and now historian David Day has giv ...

Ian Britain reviews 'Bill' by Scott Bevan

Ian Britain
Monday, 02 March 2015

‘He was a great bloke, a gentleman and a scholar,’ one of Scott Bevan’s interviewees says of his subject, the fêted and (at one stage) ill-fated painter, William Dobell. Like many others in the book, this interviewee got to know Dobell at Wangi Wangi, the little coastal township just south of Newcastle in New South Wales where the painter retreated for the la ...