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Monday, 28th July 2014

Network Review of Books

  • Russian Anzacs in Australian History

    imageElena Govor, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2005, 310 Pages, Paperback, $44.95: Reviewed by Robert Crawford in the June 2005 issue.

    Elena GovorRussian Anzacs in Australian History UNSW Press2005310pp.ISBN 0-86840-856-5As number of ex-Diggers dwindles, an inverse growth in interest has developed in the story of Anzac. Elena Govor's recent addition to this growing body of work, Russian Anzacs in Australian History, joins John F. Williams' German Anzacs and the First World War in revealing a neglected side of the national legend. As the title suggests, Govor's study is an examination of the 969 men from the Russian Empire who enlisted in the First Australian Imperial Force. Relaying this forgotten chapter in Australian history not only requires a thorough researcher; it demands a first-class storyteller. Fortunately, Govor ... read more.
  • The Pursuit of Wonder: How Australia's landscape was explored, nature discovered and tourism unleashed

    imageJulia Horne, Carlton: The Miegunyah Press, 2005, 350 Pages, Hardcover, $39.95: Reviewed by Paul Genoni in the January 2006 issue.

    Recent years have witnessed a growing academic interest in the history of Australian tourism and leisure travel. Significant studies have included Jim Davidson and Peter Spearitt's Holiday Business: Tourism in Australia since 1870 (2000) and Richard White's On Holidays: A History of Getting Away in Australia (2005); while other contributions such as Leone Huntsman's Sand in our Souls: The Beach in Australian History (2001) have examined particular sites of Australian recreation and leisure. The same period has also seen the emergence in Australian universities of departments dedicated to tourism related teaching and research. Julia Horne's The Pursuit of Wonder is a further contribution to ... read more.
  • Disarming Proposals: Controlling nuclear, biological and chemical weapons

    imageAndy Butfoy, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2005, 95 Pages, Paperback, $16.95: Reviewed by Richard Gehrmann in the November 2005 issue.

    When the Berlin Wall came down and thousands of bewildered East Berliners wandered down the streets of their newly reunited capital, it appeared that a new world order might be dawning. After a decade of Reagan, Star Wars and the threat of nuclear annihilation, we in the developed world could all sleep peacefully in our beds at night. As a young university student in the 1980s, my awareness of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) had been conditioned by dramatic films such as The Day After (1983) which seemed to offer nothing but despair. A series of issues such as the Australian government's three uranium mines policy, the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, the Lange government decision to ... read more.
  • Left Right Left: Political Essays 1977-2005

    imageRobert Manne, Melbourne: Black Inc, 2005, 534 Pages, Paperback, $34.95: Reviewed by Matthew Lamb in the August 2005 issue.

    There is something about Robert Manne which I have often found puzzling. But as I have also often agreed with what he has had to say -- or, at least, at times, not disagreed with him too vehemently -- I have never let my puzzlement outweigh my respect. It was not until Black Inc. released this collection of Manne's political essays, spanning the last thirty years -- including his two contributions to the worthy Quarterly Essay series, also published by Black Inc. -- that I started to develop a sense of what the cause of this puzzlement may be. Reading, in a relatively short space of time, such a wide selection of his writing, covering such a broad period, really makes the consistent shape of ... read more.
  • Dirt Cheap: Life at the Wrong End of the Job Market

    imageElisabeth Wynhausen, Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2005, 246 Pages, Paperback, $30.00: Reviewed by Robert Imre in the July 2005 issue.

    Dirt Cheap is a jarring book. Reminiscent of Studs Terkel's books on life in the United States published in the late 1960s and early 1970s, or Ehrenreich's classic Nickel and Dimed, Wynhausen delivers an analysis that is devastating to the supporters of the new economy. The book has a primary focus of illustrating how people in Australia live from minimum wage employment. Wynhausen seeks to explore this way of life, she claims, without a preconceived agenda. Further, in a self-critical prologue, Wynhausen foreshadows her own personal journey in describing articles written for newspapers in which she previously thought she had a connection with working-class Australians. Here she finds ... read more.
  • Remnants

    imageNigel Featherstone, Canberra: Pandanus Books, 2005, 252 Pages, Paperback, $29.95: Reviewed by Tony Smith in the October 2005 issue.

    In telling stories of specific individuals in unique situations, novelists illumine important aspects of the general human condition. Nigel Featherstone does this very well in Remnants, a novel that relates directly the post-retirement discoveries of successful Sydney barrister Mitchell Granville, while prompting the reader to consider serious broader questions about all lives, their origins, purposes, justifications and relations. Following the death of his beloved wife Irma, Granville has resigned himself to living out the rest of his days in Bellstay Green, the rural seat of his establishment family, with just the caretakers for company. The future, like Granville, looks staid and ... read more.
  • Love in Time of War

    imageDeborah Montgomerie, Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2005, 146 Pages, Paperback, NZ$34.99: Reviewed by Catie Gilchrist in the July 2005 issue.

    Love in Time of War is the first in a series of new social and cultural histories, written by experts for the general market. According to the press release, this series will 'have a popular format, modest but authoritative text and will be lavishly illustrated'. With over sixty marvellous illustrations (mostly original photographs) in a volume that is only 146 pages long the written content is indeed modest, albeit accessible. The absence of a bibliography is disappointing. As a general reader my mum loved it but academics might be left unsatisfied. Introduction and conclusion aside, the book consists of three chapters that concentrate on Bob Wilson's war, Gay Grey's war and Jack Lewis' ... read more.
  • Bluff Rock: Autobiography of a Massacre

    imageKatrina M Schlunke, Fremantle: Curtin University Books, 2005, 270 Pages, Paperback, $29.95: Reviewed by Rob Edwards in the January 2006 issue.

    The various ways in which we understand and tell history as well as the multiple variations on the 'truth' of an event are explored in brilliant detail in Katrina M Schlunke's book Bluff Rock: Autobiography of a Massacre. This book examines a story of 'massacre' from Schlunke's childhood home, the New England area of New South Wales. The event in question, known as the Bluff Rock Massacre by everyone in the area, involves the killing of Aboriginal people by white settlers. The massacre is a battleground for multiple versions of a history that most want relegated to the 'past'. Schlunke refuses to let the sleeping stories lie, and draws fascinating -- and troubling -- new stories out of ... read more.
  • Original Face

    imageNicholas Jose, Artarmon: Giramondo Publishing, 2005, 308 Pages, Paperback, $27.95: Reviewed by Mads Clausen in the July 2006 issue.

    Based on a true murder, Original Face, Jose's thriller-cum-novel, opens with the first of many taxi-fares across the Glebe Island Bridge and with a body found in a rubbish tip, face sliced off in an attempt to erase the victim's identity. The search for the identity of this horribly mutilated corpse reverberates throughout the book (and the stunning front-cover), setting in motion a chain of events that extend far beyond the criminal investigation. Set in a pulsating, but oftentimes seamy and dangerous Sydney, where criminal ties and even Chinese government meddling are plentiful, the plot of the novel moves restlessly through streetscapes and restaurants, from a succession of low-rent ... read more.
  • Breastwork: rethinking breastfeeding

    imageAlison Bartlett, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2005, 208 Pages, Paperback, $39.95: Reviewed by Amanda McLeod in the January 2006 issue.

    Exploring the deeply held cultural assumptions embedded in the meanings of breastfeeding, Breastwork offers new and empowering narratives that seek to remake the representations and knowledges of breastfeeding and maternity. Despite much of the literature on breastfeeding appearing clinically and scientifically neutral, Alison Bartlett's examination reveals 'impossibly contradictory and inexplicable [stories] knotted around the meanings of women's bodies and sexuality' in terms of class, gender, heterosexuality, race and religion. (p 3) In rejecting the idea that breastfeeding is a natural and instinctive act, Bartlett, Director of the Centre for Women's Studies at the University of Western ... read more.
  • Affluenza: When too much is never enough

    imageClive Hamilton and Richard Denniss, Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, 2005, 224 Pages, Paperback, $24.95: Reviewed by Dean Durber in the October 2005 issue.

    Undoubtedly, there is a growing desire among many in the community to consider and to discover alternative ways of living. I regularly hear people -- including myself -- express a wish to be able to live differently. In this sense, Affluenza is a timely addition to the debate. It is well placed within a culture that is boiling over with boredom of the excess. Perhaps this book will offer some people the changes they crave. Perhaps it will help lead to the creation of more fulfilling lives. Yet, there is something awkwardly utopian about the kind of world the authors of this book envision. Moreover, the changes they advocate are not always about what we might become in the future; rather, ... read more.
  • Not Wrong - Just Different: Observations on the rise of contemporary Australian theatre

    imageKatharine Brisbane, Strawberry Hills: Currency Press, 2005, 370 Pages, Paperback, $34.95: Reviewed by Donald Pulford in the May 2006 issue.

    If Katharine Brisbane didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent her. David Marr has called her 'the wise old woman of Australian theatre'. After twenty-one years as a critic, mostly for The Australian, she founded Currency Press in 1971 with her husband, the late Dr Philip Parsons. Currency is far and away the single most important institution disseminating Australian scripts, scholarship and theatre histories to a population that would otherwise remain largely ignorant of the field. It has made the most tremendous contribution to the study of not only Australian theatre but Australian culture more broadly. Not Wrong -- Just Different is a very welcome collection of Katharine ... read more.