Non Fiction

Jane Sullivan on 'The Love-charm of Bombs'

Jane Sullivan
Monday, 27 May 2013

My mother-in-law often spoke fondly of the Blitz. I had visions of her as a plucky young woman cycling down the bombed streets of London, going to work as a secretary to the stars of show business, enjoying ridiculously cheap hotel meals, and in the evenings going out on the town with an exciting boyfriend – perhaps a Turkish admiral, perhaps the man she later mar ...

Gillian Terzis on 'Loving This Planet'

Gillian Terzis
Monday, 27 May 2013

In a world punctuated by civil and global conflict, it seems almost quaint to promote peace as a weapon of choice. Even in more progressive quarters, an explicit identification with pacifism seems to evoke nostalgia for a time when the enemy was obvious and the mission supposedly self-evident. But in recent decades the threat has become more nebulous, as has the rel ...

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 ...

Paul Morgan reviews 'Shirley Hazzard'

Paul Morgan
Sunday, 26 May 2013

The cover of Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire shows a vast and terrible conflagration. Flames reach high into the sky, devouring the air and seeming to set the wide river alight. In the distance, an eerily familiar pair of ghostly towers rises above the smoke. In the foreground, tiny human figures move around as a boat sets off towards the fire, perhaps in ...

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 ...

Like the best examples of true crime books, Every Parent’s Nightmare goes far beyond the tragedy at its centre and places it in its socio-economic context. Belinda Hawkins details how a death in Bulgaria back in 2007 became a highly politicised incident, and offers a convincing explanation as to why the trial was so sloppy and one-sided ...

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Simon Caterson on 'John le Carré’s spy at fifty'

Simon Caterson
Sunday, 26 May 2013

In describing the enduring cultural impact of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – published fifty years ago and often nominated as the best spy novel ever written – a good place to start, strange though it may sound, is James Bond. John le Carré’s squalid yet subtle world of Cold War spies may appear antithetical to the glamorous fantasy of Bond. ...

Brian Matthews: A non-canonical anthology

Brian Matthews
Sunday, 26 May 2013

To begin at the beginning. ‘When the first Pakeha ship came,’ Te Horeta told the explorer Charles Heaphy, ‘I was a lad … [about twelve years old].’ Watching the ‘white people’ row ashore, ‘paddling with their backs to the way they were going’, the boy and his companions ‘thought they must have eyes behind their heads’.

Conquering ...

Jeffrey Tate on rediscovering Britten

Jeffrey Tate
Sunday, 26 May 2013

It would be a pity if this well-researched and nuanced biography of the greatest English composer of the second half of the twentieth century became known for the rather sensational medical revelations contained in the last chapter. Certainly, they gave me pause before I began reading the book.

Benjamin Britten (1913–76) was the towering ...

Penguins on Horseback

Emma McEwin
Saturday, 25 May 2013

Wandering through the Mawson collection at the South Australian Museum one winter afternoon, I stare through the glass at the reconstruction of my great-grandfather, Douglas Mawson’s room in the hut, the sound of a moaning blizzard in my ears. The eerie sound of the wind coming through the installation, so familiar to Mawson and his men, is strangely allurin ...

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