August 2017, issue no. 393

Diana Glenn reviews 'Claretta: Mussolini’s last lover' by R.J.B. Bosworth

Diana Glenn

This fascinating volume on the fate of Clara (Claretta) Petacci, mistress to Benito Mussolini, by distinguished historian R.J.B. Bosworth, is a meticulously researched and multi-layered account tracing the fateful relationship between the fascist dictator and his younger paramour. From the genesis of the affair to its well-known aftermath, Bosworth enlivens our unde ... More

Paul Giles reviews 'The Glamour of Strangeness: Artists and the lost age of the exotics' by Jamie James

Paul Giles

Described in one of the blurbs on its back cover as ‘a cabinet of wonders for lovers of faraway countries,’ Jamie James’s The Glamour of Strangeness is unusual in terms of the wide variety of the material it covers. James focuses here on artists who left their homelands ‘to create a new self in a new place’, arguing that the ‘exotic’ aesthetic ... More

Patrick McCaughey reviews 'Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilization' by James Stourton

Patrick McCaughey

Kenneth Clark had a life like no other art historian or critic, gallery director, arts administrator, patron, collector, or presenter on television. Whatever he touched, he left a sheen of brilliance. He was handsome, charming, and debonair. And he was rich, spending his last three decades as the lord of Saltwood Castle. His father, the raffish and boozy Kenneth McK ... More

Andrew Fuhrmann reviews 'No Way but This: In Search of Paul Robeson' by Jeff Sparrow

Andrew Fuhrmann

Is it surprising that Jeff Sparrow should write a book on Paul Robeson, the great American singer who was also a civil rights activist, a man of the left, and the most celebrated Othello of the twentieth century? Sparrow is a broadcaster and columnist, but he is also the immediate past editor of Overland, a literary journal dedicated to a mixed diet of – ... More

Kevin Foster review 'Valiant For Truth: The life of Chester Wilmot, war correspondent' by Neil McDonald with Peter Brune

Kevin Foster

Chester Wilmot was blessed with the professional reporter’s principal virtues, talent, self-confidence, resilience, and luck. While his skills as a broadcaster took him to the various fronts of World War II, it was luck, as much as planning, that put him in Tobruk, Greece, and on the Kokoda Track at the precise moments to witness Australia’s armed forces in thei ... More

Katy Gerner reviews 'Hamilton Hume: Our greatest explorer' by Robert Macklin

Katy Gerner

Robert Macklin is a great admirer of Hamilton Hume (1797–1873). He paints a vivid, scholarly picture of one of Australia’s lesser-known ‘currency’ explorers: a man who spent his youth hiking in the bush, with his brother and an Aboriginal guide, as often as his mother would allow. Hume was a successful farmer, able bushman ... More

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

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