Book Review by Robin Osborne

Penguin $29.99


Well-known local author Robert Drewe (Our Sunshine, The Drowner, The Shark Net etc) delivered the keynote Thea Astley address at the recent Byron Bay Writers Festival to an audience comprising a sampling of what the title of his latest work dubs “the local wildlife” of the Northern Rivers.


Read more: The Local Wildlife by Robert Drewe

Book Review

Madness: A Memoir

Kate Richards

Viking $29.95


Author Kate Richards graduated in medicine from Monash University and subsequently worked in medical research. But that’s only the better half (if that) of the story, for she was a long-term sufferer from a depressive illness that brought about extensive self harming, even suicide attempts.


Read more: Madness: A Memoir by Kate Richards

The Mad Marathon - The story of the 2013 election by Mungo MacCallum; Black Inc $29.99

North Coast journalist Mungo MacCallum’s federal election chronicle, Mad Marathon, hit the stores even before the final results were declared, with several Senate seats hanging and Clive Palmer, “the former loyal bagman for the Coalition”, on such a slender margin that a recount in Fairfax seemed likely.

While helped in his daunting task by then-PM Gillard’s January announcement of a September election, and the outcome already seeming clear, MacCallum has surpassed his accounts* of the past two elections in terms of both detail and irreverent humour.

Read more: The Mad Marathon

White Woman – Black Art by Irena Hatfield.

Unaware that within a few years she would face trial for the murder of her late husband, Irena Hatfield flew from Darwin to Elcho Island, off the NT’s northeast coast, on 7 September 1993.

On her lap was her elderly Sydney Silky terrier, Twinkle, while in her bag was a letter of appointment to turn the derelict Galiwinku hospital into an Aboriginal arts and crafts centre showcasing the works of the local Yolgnu people.

Read more: White Woman – Black Art, My year on Elcho Island by Irena Hatfield.

reviewed by Robin Osborne

Although no stranger to Australia, and the author of 22 works of fiction and four, including this, of non-fiction, Penelope Lively has received scant local coverage for a book widely acclaimed in her native UK (Guardian best-seller list, mid-2013).

Slender in size but broad in scope, this “view from old age”, as the 81-year old dubs it, is a nostalgic yet unsentimental reflection on an ‘examined’ life well spent, and of the importance of reading and writing, and the joys of cherished possessions.

Read more: Ammonites and Leaping Fish – A Life in Time by Penelope Lively (Fig Tree/Penguin)

In the Northern Rivers the mention of vaccination evokes images not of children protected from serious diseases but of conflict. Recently the anti-vaccination forces have over-played their hand and fostered a backlash from medical bodies, government and the broader public. However, vaccine refusers – self-styled ‘conscientious objectors’ – continue to peddle alarmism on the internet, as a local GP laments...

I have had a most enjoyable medical career and seen so many marvellous changes in the way we treat and manage our patients. I still have clear memories of a close relative who caught polio as a teenager, and of the enormous impact that this had on her life, and still does. Yet today one of her grandchildren has not been vaccinated because the child’s parents are worried about all vaccines.


Read more: World Wide Wackery infects vaccine issue

I attended a Liberal Party fund raiser in Ballina nearly 10 years ago, Prime Minister John Howard as the guest. He spoke off the cuff for 40 minutes; fluently and eloquently. His energy and commitment were obvious to all. I was most impressed. 

After the dinner he went around the room and chatted briefly with each table of benefactors. If shaking a man's hand makes him vote for you, John Howard was set to get an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Unfortunately, just before he got to our table, he was whisked away by his minders. (He had to be up early the next morning for a walk.) ... so near, but yet so far.

Read more: Speed Dating with the Minister