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[25 Jul 2015 | No Comment | 11 views ]

Kin
By Nick Brodie
Hardie Grant, $29.95.
As Tasmania-based historian and archaeologist Nick Brodie traced his family tree back to some of the earliest white arrivals in the Antipodes, including transported felons, he also began to observe a pattern of European settlement in Australia.
As the intricate and interweaving lives of his extended family members, especially the Brodies, the O’Raffertys and the O’Keeffes, intersected with colonial and then post-Federation Australian history, Brodie managed to uncover a series of stories of hardship and travail, of revival and treasured memory, of individual hope, and of social, …

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[18 Jul 2015 | One Comment | 18 views ]

Secrets, Spies & Spotted Dogs
By Jane Eales
Middle Harbour Press, 292pp, $29.95
Jane Eales, who was born in London in April 1947, was 19 when she was told she was adopted. She was living in South Africa at the time and needed to produce her birth certificate in case of wishing to take up permanent residence. When she requested this document from her Jewish parents, who were then living in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), they insisted on paying her airfare to fly her ‘‘home’’ for the weekend. That’s when she …

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[13 Jun 2015 | No Comment | 21 views ]

Review of ‘Joh for PM’
By Paul Davey
Newsouth Books, $29.99
As well as being a former journalist, for many years Paul Davey was a senior staffer for the National Party of Australia at state and federal levels. In particular, he was the National Party’s federal director during the tumultuous time of controversial Queensland premier Johannes “Joh” Bjelke-Petersen’s brief and spectacularly unsuccessful tilt at the highest office in the land.
Hence ‘Joh for PM’ is marketed as an insider’s story – of what is indisputably an extraordinary Australian political and parliamentary melodrama. Whether …

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[6 Jun 2015 | No Comment | 22 views ]

REVIEW
‘Australia’s Boldest Experiment: War and Reconstruction in the 1940s’.
By Stuart Macintyre
NewSouth, 596pp, $34.99
Stuart Macintyre’s latest book examines the vast reconstruction and nation-building project in Australia after the end of World War II and throughout almost all of the 1940s.
‘Australia’s Boldest Experiment’ is dedicated to the historian’s wife, Martha — also an esteemed academic — who was born early on August 16, 1945. Martha’s mother, born the year the Great War ended, went into labour as the news broke in Australia late in the morning of Aug­ust 15, 1945, that World …

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[23 May 2015 | No Comment | 8 views ]

Review of ‘Operation Chowhound: The Most Risky, Most Glorious, US Bomber Mission of WWII.’
By Stephen Dando-Collins
St Martin’s Press, 272pp, $32.99
The Berlin airlift of 1948-49 has become world famous. Yet three years earlier, in the dying days of World War II, a remarkable airborne operation took place over Nazi-occupied Holland. This involved, in late April and early May 1945, low-flying American and British heavy bombers dropping desperately needed food to Dutch civilians, many of whom were dying of hunger. Across 10 days, more than 10,000 tonnes of food was delivered. Most …

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[9 May 2015 | No Comment | 20 views ]

Review of
‘Windsor’s Way’
By Tony Windsor
MUP, 246pp, $32.99
In the early 1990s Tony Windsor, as the independent state MP for Tamworth, kept Nick Greiner’s minority Liberal government in power in NSW. In 2001, he was elected the independent federal member for New England.
All in all, the likable, plain-spoken Windsor experienced 22 years in two Australian parliaments, and won seven elections as an independent. Moreover, his vote was pivotal in two crucial balance-of-power situations: one favouring Greiner; the other, in concert with the loquacious independent MP for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott, supporting the minority …

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[11 Apr 2015 | No Comment | 22 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 | One Comment | 49 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 | 34 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 | 33 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 | 13 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: …