Weekend Round-Up 2006 #25

The Age

Shaun Carey has a look at The Weapons Detective: The Inside Story of Australia's Top Weapons Inspector by Rod Barton, and finds it "open-minded, apolitical and free of anger". Yet "does manage to fire some bullets. He concludes that the US, Britain and Australia did go to war on a lie. And like the trained scientist he is, he poses questions about the health of our democracy, not with some fulmination about John Howard but with a raised eyebrow about the pressures that are placed on public servants and military officers who know something about such things as prisoner abuse but are 'discouraged' from coming forward."

The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie is Jaclyn Moriarty's third YA novel and it is reviewed this week by Frances Atkinson: "Moriarty's book is satisfying and engaging. Some young-adult authors merely engage in a clever act of ventriloquism, but Moriarty's prose has a recognisable air of authenticity. It reads like a teen soap opera but with feeling."

Jeff Sparrow reviews Cassandra Pybus's history, Black Founders: The Unknown Story of Australia's First Black Settlers and concludes that "white Australia has a black history - and it's more complicated and fascinating than most of us ever knew."

Short notices are given to: Where Fate Beckons: The Life of Jean-Francois de la Perouse by John Dunmore: "You don't have to be especially interested in the 18th-century French explorer to get into ths academic, very readable biography, but it would help."

The Australian

Not a lot here this week with only Kylie Tennant: A Life by Jane Grant getting a review of any sort. This is part of a new series of short biographies commissioned by the National Library of Australia. "Grant focuses admirably on the most interesting feature of Tennant's career, however, which is the unresolved tension between the professional and artistic aspects of her writing life. Tennant was invariably defensive or flippant about her writing, insisting she wrote only to please her father or husband, or to make money (though at times this was significant, given the mental illnesses of her husband and her son). But Grant suggests fear about the limitations of her creative imagination held her back...Tennant clearly was a frustrating novelist, hugely talented but unwilling to allow her work time to evolve."

The Sydney Morning Herald

Bob Wurth's book, Saving Australia: Curtin's Secret peace with Japan is reviewed this week by Tony Stephens. You'll recall that Bob commented on this weblog, a week or so back, correcting some factual errors in Ross Fitzgerald's review of the book in "The Australian". So it will be interesting to see if Stephens has fallen into the same trap or has actually read the whole work. It certainly starts with praise: "Bob Wurth has written an extraordinary book about a remarkable period of history, focusing on the relations between Kawai and John Curtin, the then prime minister, and other prominent Australians, such as High Court judge Owen Dixon." And continues later: "His research and writing is that of a good reporter: the account of Curtin's train trip from Canberra to Melbourne a few days before Pearl Harbour is gripping; the love story involving Kawai and his American secretary sensitively told." But as a review it merely skims the surface of the book without delving into the whys and wherefores. This book is starting to look really interesting.

James Bradley reviews Black Founders: The Unknown Story of Australia's First Black Settlers by Cassandra Pybus, and finds that the author's story of the first dozen black slaves sentenced to transportation is "surprisingly fresh, perhaps not least because its emphasis on the rum-soaked brutality of colonial life is so at odds with the tendency by recent historians to portray the settlement (for all its faults) as something rather more utopian."

Ex-senator John Button reviews Fear and Politics by current parliamentarian Carmen Lawrence. Button always writes well and this review, with a touch of anecdote, a pinch of history and great dollops of insight, is a joy. If Australia ever had a publication like The New York Review of Books, you'd have to ask Button to be one of the resident reviewers of political works. He calls this "a gutsy and thoughtful book".

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 19, 2006 4:07 PM.

"The Age" and the Miles Franklin Award was the previous entry in this blog.

Australian Bookcovers #17 - Dirt Music by Tim Winton is the next entry in this blog.

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