Biography and Memoirs

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' by Jo Case

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

Rachel Robertson reviews 'Welcome to Your New Life'

Rachel Robertson
26 March 2013

The welcome in the title of this memoir refers both to Goldsworthy welcoming her baby son and to her recognition that her own life has irrevocably changed. The commonplace but also profound shifts resulting from motherhood are gently displayed for the reader, without sentimentality or the relentless self-deprecating irony of many motherhood memoirs and blogs. As rea ... More

Peter Kenneally reviews the new biography of Werner Pelz

Peter Kenneally
26 March 2013

In 1985, at La Trobe University, a sociology undergraduate is in a tutorial with his supervisor. He has chosen to write 6000 words on the role of art and the artist in capitalist societies and his sixty-four-year-old tutor has, rather surprisingly, encouraged him.

In fact, as the student, Roger Averill, comes to know the older man, he realises that ‘ ... More

Paul Madden reviews 'Raffles and the Golden Opportunity, 1781–1826'

Paul Madden
25 March 2013

In 1819, when Lachlan Macquarie was shaping New South Wales, Stamford Raffles established the settlement of Singapore, which was to fulfil his dream of becoming a great eastern ‘Emporium’ and which remains a key trade hub in the Asia Pacific region today. But that is about all most people know about the man who gave his name to so many institutions in the modern ... More

Lyndon Megarrity reviews 'I Am Bound to be True' by Mary Elizabeth Calwell

Lyndon Megarrity
25 March 2013

Arthur Augustus Calwell is hardly the most celebrated or mythologised politician in the history of the Australian Labor Party. His achievements as the first minister for immigration More

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