Biography

Brian Matthews reviews 'Dymphna' by Judith Armstrong

Brian Matthews

In the summer of 1988 I was part of an Adelaide Writers Week symposium on biography, the stars of which were two justly famous and accomplished biographers – Victoria Glendinning and Andrew Motion.  I described that occasion at the time, like this:

I greatly admired Motion’s panache. As we ascended the podium to begin the se ... More

Sujatha Fernandes reviews 'Karl Marx: Greatness and illusion' by Gareth Stedman Jones

Sujatha Fernandes

In this 750-page tome, Gareth Stedman Jones, a British historian and former editor of New Left Review, seeks to rescue the revolutionary thinker Karl Marx from the ‘Marxism’  he sees as the creation of his long-time collaborator Friedrich Engels and to reconstruct him as part of the nineteenth-century political and philosophical context in which he ex ... More

James Walter reviews 'Paul Keating: The Big-Picture Leader' by Troy Bramston

James Walter

Paul Keating has been much written about; his trajectory is familiar. His is a story of leadership and the exercise of power, about a man who led from the front and – like Gough Whitlam – was willing to ‘crash through or crash’ when following his convictions. No prime minister since has displayed a similar propensity. Troy Bramston’s biography conforms to ... More

Margaret Harris reviews 'Victoria: The woman who made the modern world' by Julia Baird

Margaret Harris

The Empire over which Queen Victoria ruled for more than sixty years no longer paints the globe red. Yet Victoria is still ubiquitous. She is memorialised in the Commonwealth of Australia – formally proclaimed just three weeks before she died on 22 January 1901 – in the names of two states and innumerable other places, along with material objects like statues an ... More

James Dunk reviews 'Dr James Barry: A woman ahead of her time' by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield

James Dunk

‘The devil! It’s a woman!’ exclaimed a charwoman as she laid out the naked body of James Barry, MD, for burial. Seventy-six years earlier, Barry had been born ...

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John Arnold reviews 'Up Came a Squatter: Niel Black of Glenormiston, 1839–1880' by Maggie Black

John Arnold

At the launch of Up Came a Squatter, Geoffrey Blainey reflected on how important the wool industry was to Australia for more than a hundred years ...

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Evelyn Juers reviews 'Cursed Legacy: The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann' by Frederic Spotts

Evelyn Juers

In ‘The Art of Biography’, Virginia Woolf insists that this ‘is the most restricted of all the arts’ and that even if many biographies are written, few survive. But somehow ...

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Jill Burton reviews 'Cynthia Nolan: A biography' by M.E. McGuire

Jill Burton

When times were difficult, Cynthia Reed Nolan ‘drew the veil’. Born in Evandale in 1908, the youngest of six children, Cynthia always sought distance ...

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Ann-Marie Priest reviews 'Katherine Mansfield: The early years' by Gerri Kimber

Ann-Marie Priest

Katherine Mansfield is one of those shimmering literary figures whose life looms larger than her work. This is not because her writing lacks value: Mansfield’s spiky ...

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Shannon Burns reviews 'The Life of D.H. Lawrence' by Andrew Harrison

Shannon Burns

Readers who expect to be treated with gentlemanly courtesy have always found D. H. Lawrence rough going. His explicit fictional representations of sex and his anti-war diatribes were widely condemned in his lifetime, and his novels were duly censored or withdrawn from sale in Britain and beyond. Lawrence’s prose style – lyrical and sensuous one moment, brusque a ... More

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