Monthly Archives: March 2015

A journalist’s conversion: Subtle Flame, Katharine Susannah Prichard’s final novel


It’s with some sadness I’ve finished reading Katharine Susannah Prichard’s final novel, Subtle Flame (1967). I still have to go back and read two earlier, obscure novels (Windlestraws and The Moon of Desire) in the rare book room of the library, but, chronologically, I’ve come to the end of the line in my long running reading project. Continue reading

When to tell: Julia Baird shares her Queen Victoria scoop


I’m an admirer of Julia Baird, host of ABC TV’s The Drum. She has taken on the powerful Sydney Anglicans over their attitude toward women more effectively than most. She is an interesting and balanced presenter, quick-witted and incisive. If she shares the political affiliation of her brother (NSW’s premier) and her father (a former federal MP), maybe there’s hope yet for that party.  She’s also a biographer. I read that The Drum gig is what she’s doing because she used up her advance on her long-awaited biography of Queen Victoria.

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“Elephantasia” – John Sutherland’s take on Jumbo and elephants in general


John Sutherland, Jumbo: The Unauthorised Biography of a Victorian Sensation (Aurum Press, 2014)

Such was my ignorance I didn’t even realise Jumbo was a particular late-nineteenth century elephant, the world’s most famous elephant. The story of the life and death of Jumbo as he is captured in Africa and exhibited – and mistreated – in Paris, London, and the USA is a fascinating one. It offers a cross-section of the era in the most incredible way – colonialism, emerging technology, sexual mores, exhibits. This was an elephant with links to both Queen Victoria and P. T. Barnum, the great American showman. Continue reading

“I can’t leave this instrument”: an Anzac entombed on disc


ABC is reporting on the only known recorded letter by an Australian WWI soldier. Listening to the three and a half minute recording is an uncanny experience. He doesn’t know what to do with his precious time. He wishes he could move beyond the conventional greetings, and tell them plainly what he feels – but he can’t. Continue reading

Katharine Susannah Prichard’s Wild Oats of Han: some notes on its publishing history


Katharine Susannah Prichard’s Wild Oats of Han, her memoir of childhood published as a children’s novel, has an interesting publishing history. In the foreword, Prichard writes that it was written in 1908, which predates any of her other published novels. Continue reading