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[25 Mar 2017 | No Comment | 23 views ]

The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller
By Carol Baxter
Allen & Unwin, 410pp, $32.99
Jessie Miller is one of our most fascinating adventurers, even if she is little known today. In the 1920s and 30s she was world famous.
She was born in Western Australia in 1901, the year Queen Victoria died.
Four years earlier Mark Twain published Following the Equator, a nonfiction travelogue about his whistlestop tour of the British Empire. Of his time in colonial Australia Twain wrote: “It is full of surprises, and adventures, and incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are …

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[1 Mar 2017 | No Comment | 26 views ]

‘Way Beyond Satire’
by Rowan Dean
Wilkinson Publishing, 2016, 160 pages, $34.99
Reports of the death of satire have been grossly exaggerated. Indeed in an age when fact is much stranger and more preposterous than fiction, satire is still alive and has never seemed more pertinent. Despite this, some of my writer friends still contend that satire is deceased.
I do understand why some are saying this, because satire now seems to have been eclipsed by reality. Hence the timely title of Rowan Dean’s book ‘Way Beyond Satire’— a collection of satirical essays, which …

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[18 Feb 2017 | No Comment | 25 views ]

Nazis in our Midst: German-Australians, Internment and the Second World War
By David Henderson
Australia Scholarly Publishing, 197pp, $39.95
Any book with Nazis in the title is sure to receive attention, such is the fascination with the movement that personified evil in the 20th century. So it is that there will be considerable interest in the stories of former German-Australian internees and their families at the Tatura internment camp in rural Victoria, and in other Australian detention centres.
As La Trobe University academic David Henderson points out in ‘Nazis in our Midst’, the reality …

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[28 Jan 2017 | No Comment | 15 views ]

Review
The Conscription Conflict and the Great War
Edited by Robin Archer, Joy Damousi, Murray Goot and Sean Scalmer
Monash University Publishing, 220pp, $34.95
In memorialising World War I the anti-war movements of the time have been somewhat overlooked. In all the sabre-rattling countries, efforts to prevent the outbreak of war were quickly overwhelmed. More’s the pity. But in Australia a movement to prevent the introduction of military conscription was surprisingly successful.
On October 28, 1916 and again on December 20, 1917 the federal government, led by the so-called “Little Digger” William Morris (“Billy”) Hughes, …

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[28 Dec 2016 | No Comment | 22 views ]

Book Review
By Rama Gaind
‘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 …

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[24 Dec 2016 | No Comment | 50 views ]

BOOKS OF THE YEAR FOR 2016.
By Professor Ross Fitzgerald
For me, the most important book of the year is a co-authored work published by the nimble Melbourne publisher, Hybrid. This finely researched and brilliantly written, hugely significant and thoroughly accessible scholarly work is by Australian Jewish writers Sam Lipski & Suzanne D. Rutland – “Let My People Go: The untold story of Australia and the Soviet Jews 1959-89.”
Two extremely revealing books about communism follow this fine work of and about Australian history and politics. The first fearless expose is Sheila …

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[12 Nov 2016 | No Comment | 145 views ]

Victory at Villers-Bretonneux: Why a French Town Will Never Forget the Anzacs
By Peter FitzSimons
William Heinemann, 764pp, $49.99 (HB)
Writing about defeats is an honourable and necessary part of any war historian’s job, but it is refreshing to read about a victory.
‘Victory at Villers-Bretonneux’ is the third instalment in Peter FitzSimons’s fine trilogy about the experiences of soldiers on both sides in World War I.
Having previously written about Gallipoli and the twin battles of Fromelles and Pozieres, FitzSimons now deals with what was arguably the Anzacs’ greatest triumph, the second battle of …

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[29 Oct 2016 | No Comment | 46 views ]

Passchendaele: Requiem for Doomed Youth
By Paul Ham
William Heinemann 565pp, $45 (HB)
Passchendaele serves as an emblem signifying all the tragedy and suffering of World War I.
The battles at and around the small Flemish town were fought from July to November 1917. It was the worst year of the war for Allied forces, a time of catastrophic loss and unimaginable carnage on the battlefields of the Western Front.
Written with the aid of three researchers — Glenda Lynch in Australia, Simon Fowler in Britain and Elena Vogt in Germany — Paul Ham’s …

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[29 Oct 2016 | No Comment | 26 views ]

COMIC HISTORY
True Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia, Volume 2
DAVID HUNT
BLACK INC., $32.99
David Hunt is an Australian historian, comedy writer, and children’s book author. His ‘Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia’ was shortlisted for the 2014 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and for the Australian Book Industry Awards. He is in the fine tradition of writing gleefully and outrageously about our past, present and future.
In ‘True Girt, the second volume of his unauthorised history (which makes me think of Manning Clark), Hunt states that he will have succeeded with this book …

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[15 Oct 2016 | No Comment | 56 views ]

Review
Richard Brooks: From Convict Ship Captain to Pillar of Early Colonial Australia
By Christine Maher
Rosenberg Publishing, 248pp, $29.95
As captain of the convict transport ship ‘Alexander’, Richard Brooks sailed in a convoy of seven vessels bringing incoming governor William Bligh to Sydney in 1806. Four years earlier Brooks, a rum trader, had presided over arguably the worst single voyage in a convict ship coming to Sydney Cove, that of the ‘Atlas’. A third of the convicts — 73 people — died from disease and neglect, with the latter in large part because …

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[11 Oct 2016 | 2 Comments | 107 views ]

Chris Mitchell, ‘Making Headlines’
Melbourne University Press 2016, $32.99
Reviewed by Ross Fitzgerald
For years from the mid-1990s onwards I wrote a regular column for Chris Mitchell when he ran Brisbane’s ‘Courier-Mail’ and then, from July 2002, when he was editor-in-chief of ‘The Australian’. This was the case until he retired from his extremely demanding editorial position in December 2015.
My experience is that Mitchell genuinely believes in freedom of speech and in the free play of ideas. Indeed, I can’t remember a single instance when he tried to prevent or influence me …