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[11 Apr 2015 | No Comment | 11 views ]

Memoirs of a Slow Learner: New Edition
By Peter Coleman
Connor Court, 190pp, $29.95
Writing a memoir doesn’t mean you have to spill your guts. Sometimes what is left unsaid can be as interesting and even more intriguing than what is revealed.
When this book was first published 21 years ago, some reviewers complained Peter Coleman was far too reticent, especially about his personal life. This, it seems to me, is a misunderstanding of the nature of his memoir, which is neither a confession nor a listing of his individual achievements but essentially a …

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[4 Apr 2015 | No Comment | 10 views ]

Review of
‘Let My People Go: The Untold Story of Australia and the Soviet Jews 1959—89′.
By Sam Lipski and Suzanne D. Rutland
Hybrid Publishers, 273pp, $29.95
Meeting Jews who had been persecuted in Russia inspired Melbourne-born Sam Lipski to write about their struggle. In 1987 the distinguished journalist visited Moscow and was confronted with the brutal reality of Soviet totalitarianism through lengthy interviews with Soviet Jews who had applied to immigrate to ­Israel but were refused permission to do so.
As a proud Australian Jew, Lipski was sympathetic to the cause of these “refuseniks’’. …

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[14 Mar 2015 | No Comment | 30 views ]

Review of ‘The Compassionate Englishwoman: Emily Hobhouse in the Boer War’
By Robert Eales
Middle Harbour Press, 298pp, $29.95
IT was a terrible war with atrocities, war crimes and concentration camps but it had nothing to do with the Nazis. This was the Boer War, 1899-1902, and the camps were set up by the British, of whose empire Australia was an integral part. It was also a war that blooded Australians for the catastrophe to follow.
The British Army, led by the likes of Lord Horatio Kitchener of Khartoum fame, not only burned most …

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[7 Mar 2015 | No Comment | 29 views ]

Review of ‘Still a Pygmy’
By Isaac Bacirongo and Michael Nest
Finch Publishing, 234pp, $27.99
THIS is one of the most unusual and fascinating memoirs I have read in many years.
Written with the aid of Michael Nest, a freelance researcher with a PhD in African politics, ‘Still A Pygmy’ documents how Isaac Bacirongo — a BaTempo Pygmy from the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — moved to Sydney with his wife Josephine and their 10 children.
The only member of his extended family to go to school and also for a …

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[28 Feb 2015 | No Comment | 10 views ]

Review of ‘The Cunning Man’
By Peter Stanley
Bobby Graham Publishers, 338pp, $29.95
HAVING enjoyed historian Peter Stanley’s many works of nonfiction, one turns to this historical novel with enthusiasm but also a degree of trepidation.
There’s little doubt Stanley is one of Australia’s leading military historians. ‘The Cunning Man’ was born of research for another project. It is squarely based on his detailed and painstaking doctoral research into the lives of European soldiers in early Victorian India. In 1998, Stanley’s PhD about the subject was published in a widely acclaimed book, ‘White Mutiny: …

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[7 Feb 2015 | No Comment | 8 views ]

Review of ‘Mateship: A Very Australian History’
By Nick Dyrenfurth
Scribe, 256pp, $29.99
NICK Dyrenfurth’s Mateship is the first significant exploration of what the author terms “our secular egalitarian creed” since Russel Ward’s path-breaking 1958 work ‘The Australian Legend.’
Many of the themes in Dyrenfurth’s well-produced book (though it unfortunately lacks an index) had been explored previously with fellow scholars at the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. Moreover, as Dyrenfurth acknowledges, the early stages of this often provocative and insightful book benefited from his three-year postdoctoral fellowship, hosted by …

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[31 Jan 2015 | No Comment | 20 views ]

Review of ‘Paul Hasluck: A Life’
By Geoffrey Bolton
UWA Publishing, 492pp, $49.99
FOR 20 years, from 1949, when he won the newly created Perth-based seat of Curtin, Fremantle-born Paul Hasluck was one of Australia’s most prominent conservative federal politicians. Born into a Salvation Army family, Hasluck played a leading role in Aboriginal affairs and indigenous reform and also in helping prepare Papua New Guinea for independence.
After Liberal prime minister Robert Menzies in 1951 appointed him minister for territories, a position he held for 12 years, Hasluck (1905–93) was minister for external affairs …

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[20 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 45 views ]

Review
‘The Nashos’ War: Australia’s National Servicemen and Vietnam’
By Mark Dapin
Viking, 470pp, $39.99 (HB)
DURING the Vietnam War almost 64,000 young Australians were drafted into national service across a seven-year period. Beginning on March 10, 1965, the “‘nashos’’ were chosen by chance, their birth dates drawn from a lottery barrel at the Department of Labour and National Service in Melbourne. As journalist and author Mark Dapin points out, not all of these conscripts were sent to Vietnam, but their random fate came to symbolise the war and divide a nation.
This fine book …

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[6 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 10 views ]

Private Bill: In Love and War
By Barrie Cassidy
MUP, 192pp, $29.99
WRITERS often hit their straps when they tackle subjects that have deep emotional resonance. So it is for Barrie Cassidy with his third book, Private Bill, a testament to his father.
Best known as press secretary to Bob Hawke when he was prime minister and now as host of the ABC’s Insiders program, Cassidy is also an accomplished author and this book is his best yet.
The hero of this beautifully conceived and multi-layered tale is his beloved father, Bill, who arrived on …