Biography and Memoirs

Miriam Cosic reviews 'A Spy in the Archives'

Miriam Cosic
Thursday, 31 October 2013

When Sheila Fitzpatrick arrived in Oxford in 1964, with a couple of years of Russian language studies at Melbourne University and a Commonwealth Scholarship under her belt, she had more than a passing knowledge of Cold War spying. Her father, Brian Fitzpatrick, was a labour historian and well-known leftist who had advised the Labor Opposition leader H.V. Evatt ...

Richard Broinowski reviews 'Charles Robert Scrivener'

Richard Broinowski
Thursday, 31 October 2013

In the 1890s the six Australian colonies were preoccupied not only with getting a fair deal over tariffs and customs – and maintaining the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race – but also with the location of the national capital. Denizens of Melbourne and Sydney felt that it should be one of them. The compromise was a capital in New South Wales, closer to Sydney ...

James Walter on the new biography of Margaret Thatcher

James Walter
Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Our media treat leaders as personifying everything that matters, yet social scientists disdain leadership. Most of what we know about leaders comes from biographies. And biography, dominated by those wishing either to demonise, or to celebrate, their subject, is a craft monopolised by insiders, acolytes, and journalists. Regarding Margaret Thatcher, academics ...

Even the most seasoned political observers would have been surprised at the Palmer United Party’s triumph at the federal election, which saw it claim three seats in the Senate. Was it a stroke of luck or the work of a remarkable political strategist? In any case, the political fate of the PUP’s founder remains undecided ...

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Dennis Haskell reviews 'The Local Wildlife'

Dennis Haskell
Monday, 30 September 2013

Pre-teen and early teen years had me and many others enjoying Ross Campbell’s witty column in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper about the goings-on in ‘Oxalis Cottage’, a fictionalised version of his Sydney home. Robert Drewe’s often hilarious columns for The Age and The Weekend West are a kind of modern equivalent, and a selection of ...

Lyndon Megarrity reviews 'W. Macmahon Ball'

Lyndon Megarrity
Tuesday, 27 August 2013

William Macmahon Ball (1901–86) was many things: an academic, a diplomat, a writer, and what we would now refer to as a ‘public intellectual’. As Ai Kobayashi’s new study of this fascinating man ably demonstrates, Ball was predominantly an educator. In the classroom, through books, and in the media, Ball encouraged his audience to reflect more deeply a ...

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

Alex O'Brien
Tuesday, 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 ...

Alistaire Bowler reviews 'A Lasting Record'

Alistaire Bowler
Thursday, 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 ...

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Boy, Lost'

Gillian Dooley
Thursday, 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
Monday, 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 ...