Welcome to the Australian Women Writer’s bi-monthly roundup of History, Memoir and Biography (HMB) books.

This month’s post will be brief (due to personal time constraints), but hopefully we can whet your appetite with this quickie overview and you will feel tempted to try some of the titles reviewed yourself.

The Thea Astley bio particularly grabbed my attention. I’ve been curious/concerned for quite some time about the lack of biographies about our award-winning authors (of either sex). I compare how the English and the Americans venerate, memorialise and elevate their well-known authors and wonder why we ignore ours so profoundly. Is it part of the tall poppy syndrome? Or is something else going on?

I’m hoping to explore this theme further when I attend the Honouring Australian Writers: Randolph Stow event at the NSW State Library later this month. My plan is to read Gabrielle Carey’s bio Moving Among Strangers beforehand. However, I wish I had heard about this event last year so I could have also attended the inaugural Honouring of Thea Astley.


I thought it might be instructive this roundup, to define thesavage-or-civilised HMB categories so that we can all tag our posts consistently as well as seeing which genre’s are best and least represented.

I’ve turned to the Oxford English Dictionary online for clarification:

History: 1. The whole series of past events connected with someone or something.

2. A continuous, typically chronological, record of important or public events or of a particular trend or institution.

With one lone review in this category, Janine @The Resident Judge of Port Phillip read Savaged or Civilized? Manners in Colonial Australia by Penny Russell. She discusses the manners and mores of four distinct periods – frontier times, high society, domestic life and the public sphere.


Memoir: 1. An historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources.
2. An autobiography or a written account of one’s memory of certain events or people.

Memoir is definitely the most popular genre with 11 reviews of 11 different books.

Jennifer @goodreads read To Set the Record Straight by Christina Borgia Griguol about pasta making in Adelaide and WWII internment camps.

Sam @Sam Still Reading read In Love and War: Nursing Heroes by Liz Byrski. A memoir of the Guinea Pig Club during WWII and Archibald McIndoe.melbourne-100-181

Janine @The Resident Judge of Port Phillip read Melbourne by Sophie Cunningham.

Cassie @Book Birdy read Storyteller by Zoe Daniel – an ABC Foreign Correspondent in Asia who talks about how “a choice is quite different from a sacrifice“.

Brona @Brona’s Books read Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia edited by Amra Pajalic and Demet Divaroren –  a Children’s Book Council Award shortlisted YA title.

Yvonne @Stumbling Through the Past read Fractured Families: Life on the Margins in Colonial New South Wales by Dr Tanya Evans.

Jennifer @goodreads read Paint Me Black: Memories of Croker Island and Other Journey’s by Claire Henty-Gebert. A Stolen generation story that Jennifer summed up by saying,

A life can be recounted in many different ways. Ms Henty-Gebert writes more of the positive aspects of her life than about the loss and sadness. In some ways, this makes her account harder to read.”

Debbie @goodreads read A Better Woman: A Memoir of Motherhood by Susan Johnson – a rather horrifying tale of childbirth gone wrong.

Jennifer @goodreads read Kick the Tin by Doris Kartinyeri – Jennifer’s second Stolen Generation review this roundup.

Jason @Vampires in the Sunburnt Country read The Dangerous Bride by Lee Kofman

Sam @Sam Still Reading read Almost Sincerely by Zoe Norton Lodge about life growing up in Annandale.


Biography: 1. An account of someone’s life written by someone else.


Jennifer @goodreads read A Colonial Woman: The Life and Times of Mary Braidwood Mowle by Patricia Clarke.One-Life-Kate-Grenville

Annette @Newtown Review of Books read Awakening: Four Lives in Art by Eileen Chanin and Steven Miller. A fascinating between-the-wars bio about art, modernism and Dora Ohlfsen, Louise Dyer, Mary Cecil Allen and Clarice Zander.

Brona @Brona’s Books read One Life: My Mother’s Story by Kate Grenville.

Suzanne @Newtown Review of Books read Thea Astley: Inventing Her Own Weather by Karen Lamb.

Stephanie @Between Once Upon a Time and Ever After read Cranky Ladies of History edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessley.

Which HMB titles will you be reading next month?


About Bronwyn: I have been a book blogger at Brona’s Books since 2009 and a bookseller (specialising in children’s literature) in Sydney since 2008. Before this I was as an Early Childhood teacher for 18 years in rural NSW.

I taught myself to read when I was four by memorising my Dr Seuss books. I haven’t stopped reading since.

You can find me on Twitter @brona68.