'I call my dad from the car and ask him about his morning, tell him about mine.
'‘What kind of hoarder was she?’ he asks.
'‘Books and cats, mainly,’ I tell the man who loves his cats and who I know is now actively considering his extensive book collection.
'‘What’s the difference between a private library and a book hoarder?’ he wonders.
'We are both silent before we laugh and answer in unison: ‘Faeces.’
'But the difference is this phone call. And the others like it I could make—and how strong we are when we are loved.
'Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife…
'But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.
'A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.
'Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead—and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
With Deep Time Dreaming.
'Soon after Billy Griffiths joins his first archaeological dig as camp manager and cook, he is hooked. Equipped with a historian’s inquiring mind, he embarks on a journey through time, seeking to understand the extraordinary deep history of the Australian continent.
'Deep Time Dreaming is the passionate product of that journey. It investigates a twin revolution: the reassertion of Aboriginal identity in the second half of the twentieth century, and the uncovering of the traces of ancient Australia.
'It explores what it means to live in a place of great antiquity, with its complex questions of ownership and belonging. It is about a slow shift in national consciousness: the deep time dreaming that has changed the way many of us relate to this continent and its enduring, dynamic human history.' (Publication summary)
With The Trauma Cleaner.
'A world-famous Australian writer, an inspiration to Robert Hughes and Clive James, a legendary war correspondent who also wrote bestselling histories of exploration and conservation . . . and yet forgotten? In this dazzling book, Thornton McCamish delves into the past to reclaim a remarkable figure, Alan Moorehead.
'As a reporter, Moorehead witnessed many of the great historical events of the mid-20th century: the Spanish Civil War and both world wars, Cold War espionage, and decolonisation in Africa. He debated strategy with Churchill and Gandhi, fished with Hemingway, and drank with Graham Greene, Ava Gardner and Truman Capote. As well as being a regular contributor to the New Yorker, in 1956 Moorehead wrote the first significant book about the Gallipoli campaign.
'With its countless adventures, its touch of jet-set glamour and its tragic arc, Moorehead’s story is a beguiling one. Thornton McCamish tells it as a quest – intimate, perceptive and superbly entertaining. His funny, ardent book reveals an extraordinary Australian and takes its place in a fresh tradition of contemporary biography.' (Publication summary)
'Heartbreaking, joyous, traumatic, intimate and revelatory, Reckoning is the book where Magda Szubanski, one of Australia's most beloved performers, tells her story.
'In this extraordinary memoir, Magda describes her journey of self-discovery from a suburban childhood, haunted by the demons of her father's espionage activities in wartime Poland and by her secret awareness of her sexuality, to the complex dramas of adulthood and her need to find out the truth about herself and her family. With courage and compassion she addresses her own frailties and fears, and asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.
'Honest, poignant, utterly captivating, Reckoning announces the arrival of a fearless writer and natural storyteller. It will touch the lives of its readers.' (Publication summary)
'Most Australians live in cities and cling to the coastal fringe, yet our sense of what an Australian is – or should be – is drawn from the vast and varied inland called the bush. But what do we mean by 'the bush', and how has it shaped us?
'Starting with his forebears' battle to drive back nature and eke a living from the land, Don Watson explores the bush as it was and as it now is: the triumphs and the ruination, the commonplace and the bizarre, the stories we like to tell about ourselves and the national character, and those we don't. Via mountain ash and mallee, the birds and the beasts, slaughter, fire, flood and drought, swagmen, sheep and their shepherds, the strange and the familiar, the tragedies and the follies, the crimes and the myths and the hope – here is a journey that only our leading writer of non-fiction could take us on.
'At once magisterial in scope and alive with telling, wry detail, The Bush lets us see our landscape and its inhabitants afresh, examining what we have made, what we have destroyed, and what we have become in the process.
'No one who reads it will look at this country the same way again. ' (Publication summary)
'In the first volume of his history of Australia, Alan Atkinson covers the first impact of European power on Australia. He argues that the Europeans were not simply conquerors, that their own cultures were infinitely complex, thickly-woven with ideas about spirituality, authority, self and land, all of which influenced the development of Australia.' (Publication summary)For volume three (Nation).
'Kristina Olsson's mother lost her infant son, Peter, when he was snatched from her arms as she boarded a train in the hot summer of 1950. She was young and frightened, trying to escape a brutal marriage, but despite the violence and cruelty she'd endured, she was not prepared for this final blow, this breathtaking punishment. Yvonne would not see her son again for nearly 40 years.
Kristina was the first child of her mother's subsequent, much gentler marriage and, like her siblings, grew up unaware of the reasons behind her mother's sorrow, though Peter's absence resounded through the family, marking each one. Yvonne dreamt of her son by day and by night, while Peter grew up a thousand miles and a lifetime away, dreaming of his missing mother.
Boy, Lost tells how their lives proceeded from that shattering moment, the grief and shame that stalked them, what they lost and what they salvaged. But it is also the story of a family, the cascade of grief and guilt through generations, and the endurance of memory and faith.' (Publisher's blurb)With Michael Fullilove's Rendezvous with Destiny.
'Malcolm Fraser is one of the most interesting and possibly most misunderstood of Australia's Prime Ministers. In this part memoir and part authorised biography, Fraser at the age of 79 years talks about his time in public life.
'From the Vietnam War to the Dismissal and his years as Prime Minister, through to his concern in recent times for breaches in the Rule of Law and harsh treatment of refugees, Fraser emerges as an enduring liberal, constantly reinterpreting core values to meet the needs of changing times.
'Written in collaboration with journalist Margaret Simons, Malcolm Fraser's political memoirs trace the story of a shy boy who was raised to be seen and not heard, yet grew to become one of the most persistent, insistent and controversial political voices of our times.
'The book offers insight into Malcolm Fraser's substantial achievements. He was the first Australian politician to describe Australia's future as multicultural, and his federal government was the first to pass Aboriginal Land Rights and Freedom of Information legislation, also establishing the Human Rights Commission.
'After his parliamentary career, Fraser continued to be an important player in public life, playing a key role in persuading the USA Congress to impose sanctions on South Africa as part of the battle against apartheid. He was also the founding chair of CARE Australia, one of our largest aid agencies.' (From the publisher's website.)
'Blackfellas' Point' lies on the Towamba River in south-eastern New South Wales. As the river descends rapidly from its source on the Monaro plains, it winds its way through state forest, national park and farming land. Around twenty-five kilometres before it reaches the sea, just south of Eden, it passes through Towamba, the small village in which Mark McKenna now owns eight acres of land. Mark's land looks across the river to Blackfellas' Point , once an Aboriginal camping ground and meeting place.'
Looking for Blackfellas' Point is a history that begins by looking across the river to arc of bush that is Blackfellas' Point. From there, Mark McKenna's gaze pans out - from the history of one place he knows intimately, to the history of one region and, ultimately, to the history of Australia's quest for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.'
'When Dr William Macbeth poisoned two of his sons in 1927, his wife and sister hid the murders in the intensely private realm of family secrets. Macbeth behaved as if he were immune to consequences and avoided detection and punishment.
'Or did he? Secrets can be as corrosive as poison, and as time passed, the story haunted and divided his descendants. His granddaughter, Gail Bell, spent ten years reading the literature of poisoning in order to understand Macbeth’s life. Herself a chemist, she listened for echoes in the great cases of the nineteenth century, in myths, fiction, and poison lore.
'Intricate, elegant, and beautifully realised, The Poison Principle is a masterful book about family secrets and literary poisonings. It is a meditation on death, deceit and language, and answers questions like: how do arsenic, cyanide and strychnine work? Why is it so hard to poison someone these days? Was it ever easy? And it finally answers the question of what really happened to those small boys in the winter of 1927.'
Source: Publisher's blurb (Brio Books).
'In 1941, RG Menzies delivered to war-time Australia what was to be his richest, most creative speech, and one of his most influential. 'The Forgotten People' was a direct address to the Australian middle class, the "people" who would return him to power in 1949 and keep him there until his retirement in 1966.
'Who were these "forgotten people"? The middle class pitting their values of hard work and independence against the collectivist ethos of labour? Women, shunning the class-based politics of men? The parents of Menzies' childhood in the small country town of Jeparit? Australians struggling to maintain a derivative culture at the edges of the British Empire? Or all of them, in a richly over-determined image that takes us to the heart of Menzies' mid-life political transformation?
'Judith Brett deftly traces the links between the private and public meanings of Menzies' political language to produce compelling insights into the man and the culture he represented.' (Publisher's blurb)
'Born in 1894, Albert Facey lived the rough frontier life of a sheep farmer, survived the gore of Gallipoli, raised a family through the Depression and spent sixty years with his beloved wife, Evelyn. Despite enduring hardships we can barely imagine today, Facey always saw his life as a "fortunate" one. A true classic of Australian literature, his simply written autobiography is an inspiration. It is the story of a life lived to the full – the extraordinary journey of an ordinary man.' (Penguin Australia abstract)