Biography and Memoirs

Carol Middleton reviews 'Margaret and Gough' by Susan Mitchell

Carol Middleton
25 November 2014

Susan Mitchell’s fifteenth book is a biography of the Whitlams, published shortly before Gough’s death in November. As a broadcaster, journalist, and author who has examined the lives of prominent Australian women, Mitchell tells the story mainly from Margaret’s perspective. This is not surprising: Mitchell had already amassed a huge body of research for her b ... More

Michael Shmith reviews 'Rules of Engagement' by Kim Williams

Michael Shmith
24 November 2014

What this is not, as Kim Williams is quick to tell us (introduction, paragraph two), is a dog-bites-Murdoch account of that nasty business in August 2013 that saw Williams summarily ousted as chief executive of News Corp Australia. Other disgruntled former Ruprechtian courtiers such as former editor-in-chief of The Herald Sun Bruce Guthrie, who sought and won ... More

Delia Falconer reviews 'What Days Are For' by Robert Dessaix

Delia Falconer
24 November 2014

Robert Dessaix’s authorial voice reminds me of Christina Stead’s description of a small, clear wave running up a beach at low tide, playfully ‘ringing its air-bells’. He is not a writer of direct, declarative prose. Instead, Dessaix specialises in sentences that skip over and around their subjects, sometimes darting nimbly into brackets to investigate a seco ... More

Neal Blewett reviews 'My Story' by Julia Gillard

Neal Blewett
21 November 2014

Much like her government, Julia Gillard’s memoir resembles the proverbial curate’s egg. Where her passions are involved, as with education (‘Our Children’) or the fair work laws, we are provided with a compelling policy read. Where they are not, as in large slabs of foreign policy, the insightful competes with the pedestrian, enlivened admittedly with her pe ... More

Crusader Hillis reviews 'Lesbian for a Year' by Brooke Hemphill

Crusader Hillis
31 October 2014

Brooke Hemphill knows hers was not meant to be an ordinary existence, yet by her early twenties she is engaged and planning the perfect wedding – with the wrong guy. She breaks it off and moves in with a married man. He, too, is wrong for her. She works on an island resort and falls for another, but he takes off for Europe. She travels to the United States and wor ... More

Dina Ross reviews 'Jean Galbraith' by Meredith Fletcher

Dina Ross
30 October 2014

The last photographs taken of Jean Galbraith show a wrinkled woman in her eighties, with wispy hair pulled back in a bun, wearing round tortoiseshell spectacles, thick stockings, and sensible shoes – the kind of person you might expect to see serving behind the counter of a country post office early last century, or pouring en ... More

Tom Griffiths on coming of age in the Great Acceleration

Tom Griffiths
27 October 2014

I am a ‘Sputnik’, born in the year the Soviet satellite launched the Cold War into space. The launching by the Russians of the first artificial Earth satellite on 4 October 1957 seemed to many in the West a threatening symbol of escalating superpower rivalry. And it did unleash extreme military anxiety and triggered what became known as the Space Race. Twelve ye ... More

Dennis Altman reviews Bob Brown's memoir 'Optimism'

Dennis Altman
27 October 2014

There is a built-in paradox for the Greens: they need to both persuade people that we face major ecological disasters and at the same time hold out hope that we can respond meaningfully to them. To do this requires the sort of corny and touching optimism that gives Bob Brown’s book its title.

Optimism is neither a conventional memoir nor a political ... More

Peter Rose reviews 'Joe Cinque's Consolation' by Helen Garner

Peter Rose
02 October 2014

Already, Anu Singh’s story is grimly familiar. Now free again, just thirty-one, she has entered the popular pantheon of malefactors. Her attractive face appears in the newspapers, taut with self-justification. There is talk of a documentary. Notoriety, even a kind of celebrity – that amoral nirvana – is hers.

If Singh’s deepest motivation f ... More

Nick Haslam reviews 'How I Rescued My Brain'

Nick Haslam
25 September 2014

The brain, notes philosopher Paul Churchland, is the engine of reason and the seat of the soul. David Roland’s memoir of stroke and its aftermath presents a vivid picture of engine failure and a soul unseated. His book lays bare the disorienting realities of brain injury and his gradual but faltering steps towards recovery. In time he adjusts to having a somewhat ... More

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