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Friends and Rivals: Four great Australian writers by Brenda Niall

May 2020, no. 421

Friends and Rivals: Four great Australian writers by Brenda Niall

Text Publishing, $34.99 pb, 280 pp

Friends and Rivals: Four great Australian writers by Brenda Niall

May 2020, no. 421

Armed with more than half a century’s worth of knowledge, experience, the fermentation of ideas and approaches in literary history and criticism over that period, and her own formidable reputation as a scholar and teacher of Australian literature, Brenda Niall returns in her latest book to the territory of her earliest ones. In Seven Little Billabongs: The world of Ethel Turner and Mary Grant Bruce (1979), Niall broke new ground not just in writing a serious and scholarly full-length treatment of Australian children’s literature, but also in departing from the orthodox biographical tradition of focusing on a single figure.

As Niall recalls in her introduction, children’s literature was still being dismissed as ‘Kiddylit’ as late as 1987. Approaching it as a serious field of scholarly research had been a revolutionary idea in Australia in 1979; in this context, Niall’s name is now the first that anyone thinks of. Nor is the group biography a new thing for her, as demonstrated by her award-winning The Boyds: A family biography (2002), in which she revisited, from a new and wider angle, her early work on Martin Boyd.

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Friends and Rivals: Four great Australian writers' by Brenda Niall

Friends and Rivals: Four great Australian writers

by Brenda Niall

Text Publishing, $34.99 pb, 280 pp

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Comment (1)

  • Great review by Kerryn Goldsworthy on Brenda Niall's recent book. It has inspired me to get it! Thanks.
    Just wondering about Kiddylit and when that word came into use ... surely not till the last 20 years and not in the time period Kerryn refers to.
    Similarly, when I did a postgraduate degree in the late 1970s we had an amazing series of units on Children's Literature at La Trobe, so perhaps that was a turning point.
    Posted by Leni May
    10 May 2020

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