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[10 Sep 2016 | No Comment | 17 views ]

Evatt: A Life
By John Murphy
NewSouth, 451pp, $49.99 (HB)
Deeply flawed but intellectually brilliant, yet often foolish, grandiose and out of control, former federal Labor leader Herbert Vere “Doc” Evatt is one of 20th-century Australia’s most puzzling, complex and contradictory political figures.
Written with the aid of research assistants Carla Pascoe and Bill Garner, Evatt: A Lifemakes excellent use of many archives, in particular the voluminous Evatt collection at Flinders University in Adelaide, which perhaps surprisingly contains few private papers. However, as previous biographers of Evatt have noted, he rarely wrote or replied …

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[3 Sep 2016 | No Comment | 22 views ]

The Drowned Man: A True Story of Life, Death and Murder on HMAS Australia
By Brendan James Murray
Echo Publishing, 384pp, $32.95
One of the highlights of Mike Carlton’s magnificent naval history ‘Flagship’, which I recently reviewed in these pages, is its exploration of the murder of a young, homosexual crew member that took place on board HMAS Australia in March 1942. Now an entire book, although not quite as fine a work as Carlton’s, has been written on the subject.
In many ways a 70-year-old naval mystery, the details of which have never …

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[27 Aug 2016 | No Comment | 22 views ]

Review
1787: The Lost Chapters of Australia’s Beginnings
NICK BRODIE
HARDIE GRANT, $29.99
In many history books, including some of my earlier works, the time before European settlement of Australia is often presented as a prefatory chapter that begins 50,000 years before the present. In such accounts it is only when the so-called “Dreamtime” finishes that a history proper is seen to begin.
As a result, a great slab of past human experience is, as Nick Brodie explains, “relegated to archaeology and hermetically sealed by the founding of a British colony”. But, as Brodie maintains, …

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[30 Jul 2016 | No Comment | 31 views ]

Book Review
‘Flagship’: The Cruiser HMAS Australia II and the Pacific War on Japan
By Mike Carlton
William Heinemann Australia, 642pp, $49.99 (HB)
Author and broadcaster Mike Carlton has a lifelong commitment to Australian naval history. ‘Flagship’ is his third book in a magnificent four-part series that began with ‘Cruiser’ (2011), continued with ‘First Victory’ (2014) and which will end with a final, so far untitled work that is yet to be completed.
‘Flagship’ deals with HMAS Australia II, a ship fast, spacious and modern by the standard of the times. It centres on the …

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[16 Jul 2016 | No Comment | 20 views ]

MEMOIR
Whole Wild World
TOM DUSEVIC
NEWSOUTH, $29.99
According to Walkley Award-winning journalist Tom Dusevic, plying his trade is a demanding business, rather like bricklaying with a deadline. Dusevic usefully puts it thus: “Sentences are laid down like courses, one on top of the other, aiming for plumb on shaky ground.”
As those of us who have crafted a memoir know, conjuring up a sustained exploration of one’s past, including that of one’s parents and siblings, is an even more difficult task.
Set in suburban Sydney in the 1960s and 1970s, Dusevic’s memoir tries to …

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[9 Jul 2016 | No Comment | 28 views ]

The Man on the Twenty Dollar Notes: Flynn of the Inland
By Everald Compton
Xlibris, 247pp, $29.99
Decades ago, when I was a student at Melbourne High School, I was entranced by reading a battered biography of John Flynn, founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. First published in 1932, ‘Flynn of the Inland’ was written by that vastly underrated Australian writer, Ion Idriess.
Now, 84 years and eight books about him later, yet another biography of Flynn, who was born at Moliagul, central Victoria in 1880, has seen the light of day. Self-published …

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[20 Jun 2016 | No Comment | 34 views ]

Dead Men Don’t Order Flake
By Sue Williams
Text Publishing, 308pp, $29.99
Dead men don’t tell tales but, according to Australian author Sue Williams there are also other things they don’t do. “Dead men don’t order flake,” she writes at the beginning of this finely wrought and highly amusing crime novel.
Yet that’s exactly what the supposedly deceased Leo Stone requested the April afternoon he strolled into Cassandra Tuplin’s takeaway, “his gladiator shoulders filling up her shop doorway”. As well as being the owner-operator of the only takeaway shop in the tiny town of …

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[30 May 2016 | No Comment | 21 views ]

“The Big Boys Fly Up”
Review of ‘Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football’
Ross Fitzgerald (ed)
Connor Court Publishing P/L, 2016
ISBN: 9781925138948
RRP – $29.99 pb
Reviewed by Paul Henderson
THE BIG BOYS FLY UP
Ross Fitzgerald’s book consists of his introduction, followed by 37 short accounts or essays about aspects of Australian Rules Football and an epilogue which considers the effects that weather has had on the game.
The 37 authors come from many walks of life including former players, administrators and coaches, past and present politicians, business leaders, academics, journalists, a cardinal, a publisher, authors and …

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[22 Apr 2016 | No Comment | 32 views ]

Review of ‘Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football’, edited by Ross Fitzgerald, Connor Court, $32.95 & ‘From the Outer’, edited by Alicia Sometimes & Nicole Hayes, Black Inc, $27.99.
It may seem surprising – given that internet blogging and self-publishing have afforded anyone who feels they have something to say about football – that, for a long time, there was not a lot of published fan-writing on the game. Even on Australian football, which has held many people in its grip for generations.
One of the mottos of Australian football has been …

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[9 Apr 2016 | No Comment | 31 views ]

Review of ‘Growing Wild’
By Michael Wilding
Arcadia, 302pp, $39.95
“I do wish you would write your campus farce rather than live it all the time,” one of Michael Wilding’s colleagues once suggested. He proceeded to do both — though Wilding delayed publishing ‘Academia Nuts’ until he had safely taken early retirement.
Appointed to a lectureship at the University of Sydney in his 20s, the English-born Wilding encountered a strange new world, with figures such as Germaine Greer holding forth at morning tea about suckling her kitten in the bath. He also came …

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[5 Apr 2016 | No Comment | 35 views ]

Review of ‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure’.
By Ross Fitzgerald & Ian McFadyen, Hybrid Publishers, $26.95
Professor Dr Grafton Everest is said to be a ‘wonderful creation’. Depends on how you assimilate his tedious long-winded repartee.
This is not fact, but fiction: an incoherent academic accidently finds himself elected to the Australian Senate. What’s more, he has somehow ended up holding the balance of power. On top of it all, Australia is facing natural disaster from Tectonic Change.
It sounds like a familiar scenario, but Everest’s personal life does not run smoothly.
He …