Category: Biography

A review of Monash’s Masterpiece by Peter FitzSimons

I’m a military history aficionado, and the amount of information presented within this book is astonishing. I can only guess at how much research went into the preliminaries, and can see similarities to Sir John Monash’s extensive planning before the Battle of Le Hamel. I’m visualising somewhere in Mosman these large white-boards and spreadsheets travelling all around the walls of the FitzSimon’s operations-centre with countless pages of information attached to them.

A Review of Fire Road by Kim Phuc Phan Thi

A person who has experienced deep tragedy and lived to tell the story often comes to grips with profound truths along the way.  Such is the case with Phan Thi.  As she started her recovery, she had to endure daily baths to treat her burns.  She says, “Those baths were worse than death itself.  Dying is far worse than death.”  As I’ve observed this with people I know in my own life, I know this is a profound truth.

A review of Little Me by Matt Lucas

There’s a graciousness and respect that underlies all of the stories in this book. Little Me  creates the feeling that the reader is being taken into a very relaxed confidence, in which we get to hear the juicy backstage details as if they were being whispered to us over a cup of tea. Obviously this is a book that will be far more enjoyable for fans than for those who have never seen Matt Lucas’ work – there are a lot of references to his shows, and reading about the processes behind the shows is definitely part of the enjoyment of this gentle, self-deprecating, sometimes slapstick, but always moving memoir.

A review of The Diary of Esther Small 1886 edited and transcribed by Sarah Sousa

Sousa was not simply intrigued. She was invested. She deciphered the entries, sleuthed the cemetery records and censuses, and extensively researched nineteenth century women’s diaries, as evidenced in her luminous afterword on the subject. Surpassing the role of transcriber of Small’s logbook, Sousa became conservator and steward of the archive of her daily life.

A review of Andrei Tarkovsky by Sean Martin

Andrei Tarkovsky An artist who set himself the task of capturing consciousness on the hoof, making tangible the fleeting quail of phenomenal experience, Tarkovsky made things hard for himself and harder still for all directors who would follow in his footsteps. Man, he set the bar high. Even Bergman, one of the true greats, acknowledges that he is without peer.

A review of Mick: A life of Randolph Stow by Suzanne Falkiner

This first full biography by Suzanne Falkiner of Julian Randolph Stow, known by those close to him as Mick, is thorough and engaging. I first encountered his novels at university twenty-five years ago, and was drawn to the mysterious Visitants, the subject of our study at the time, and later read The suburbs of hell, but it wasn’t until I first heard that this biography was being published that I read two more of his novels to remind myself of his depth and style.

A review of Prince: Purple Reign by Mick Wall

After reading this book, Prince remains enigmatic, and perhaps that’s part of the tribute. This is a man whose legacy was his music, an oeuvre that not only provided a platform that many of today’s most respected musicians have built their careers on, but one that continues to develop the more you listen to it. There’s so much more to listen to than simply the big hits, though those hits are far more complex than the instant pop accessibility of it would suggest.

A review of Hitler: Volume I: Ascent 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich

Hitler This nuanced, well researched and often reflective biography follows closely upon the heels of Peter Longerich’s books about Himmler and Goebbels and a new scholarly edition of Mein Kampf. Apparently, there is renewed interest in what the Nazis did and thought, and this is perhaps because our world, as Timothy Snyder notes in Black Earth, is becoming more like theirs.

A review of Apostate Englishman by Albert Braz

Archie Belaney “went native”, in an era when “the cowboys always won.” In the early 20th century, American First Nations people were still regarded as savages with a lust for killing wild animals. On one occasion, in an upscale Toronto hotel while on a lecture tour, Grey Owl was taunted for being Indian. He harmed no one with his deception. Did writing about his own experiences in the forest with animals constitute cultural appropriation? Braz says no.