BOOK REVIEW: Charles Bean by Ross Coulthart (Review by Justin Cahill)

Charles Bean, Australia’s official correspondent during the Great War, is one of Australia’s most influential historians. He was, almost single-handedly, responsible for creating one of the most treasured aspects of our national psyche – the Anzac legend.

To Bean, the men Australia sent to the Great War were a heroic ‘race apart’, whose self-sacrifice, courage and valour gave a new birth to our national identity. He later commemorated their achievements in his Official History of Australia in the War and his role in establishing the Australian War Memorial.

A century on, many thousands of descendants still gather at memorials each Anzac Day to remember those lost at war. With about 25 members of my extended family having served in the War, the Anzac legend is a significant part of my own history.

The legend has not remained unchallenged. Some have labelled it an embarrassing glorification of war. It was the target of Alan Seymour’s 1958 play, The One Day of the Year, and as the Great War generation slowly passed on, successive layers of the myth were peeled away. The efforts of Simpson and his donkey were, we are told, exaggerated. Anzacs, it appears, attacked Egyptian civilians, destroying their business premises and homes.

For decades, Bean’s name was a byword for nationalist propaganda. My generation certainly viewed his work with, at best, suspicion and, at worst, disdain. Was this fair? Coulthart’s sympathetic, yet scrupulously balanced account shows we may have rushed to judgement. Bean was a hands-on historian. He got as close to the front as possible, often exposing himself to considerable danger to find out what was happening, and showed great courage in rescuing wounded men under fire. He was meticulous in collecting accounts of battles and sifting fact from fiction. He walked the tightrope between his self-imposed duty to report on the War accurately and the restrictions of official censorship with some success.

Author: Ross Coulthart

Author: Ross Coulthart

Bean, like us all, was no paragon of virtue. He tended to forget his place and intrude into political decisions, especially those involving assignments to command positions. He shared his generation’s passive anti-Semitism, causing him to undervalue the work of the Australian commander, Sir John Monash. To his credit, Bean had a degree of insight into his shortcomings. He later acknowledged and regretted his errors – a further act of courage some current historians could learn from.

Ultimately, Coulthart asks us to confront the issue of whether historians can provide accurate accounts of what actually happened. This biography is a strong affirmation that they can achieve this. Coulthart has a lucid, engaging style which brings readers up close to this subject – so close I occasionally felt I was hovering over Bean’s shoulder as he worked.

This is among the best biographies of an Australian historian available, fittingly released during the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the events Bean meticulously recorded.

Order your Signed Copy of Charles Bean here!


Justin Cahill is a Sydney-based naturalist and historian. His publications include a biography of the ornithologist Alfred North and A New Life in our History, a history of the European settlement of Australia and New Zealand told from the perspective of ordinary people. He has also written on Chinese history, including the negotiations surrounding Britain’s acquisition of Hong Kong and its decolonisation in 1997. Justin’s most recent publication is the first part of Epitome for Eleanor: A Short History of the Known Universe, written for children. His current projects include a natural history of Sydney’s Wolli Creek Valley.

He regularly contributes reviews to Booktopia.

Jamie Oliver introduces his new book Jamie’s Comfort Food

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jamie-s-comfort-foodJamie’s Comfort Food

by Jamie Oliver

Jamie’s new cookbook brings together 100 ultimate comfort food recipes from around the world. It’s all about the dishes that are close to your heart, that put a smile on your face and make you feel happy, loved, safe and secure. Inspired by everything from childhood memories to the changing of the seasons, and taking into account the guilty pleasures and sweet indulgences that everyone enjoys, it’s brimming with exciting recipes you’ll fall in love with.

Jamie’s Comfort Food is all about the food you really want to eat, made exactly how you like it. With this in mind, the book features ultimate versions of all-time favourites, and also introduces cherished dishes from countries around the world, providing a delicious recipe for every occasion. This isn’t everyday cooking – this is about weekends, holidays, celebrations and occasions. Whether you’re home alone, or sharing the love with a big group of family or friends, there really is something for everyone.

Celebrating the beauty of good food is at the heart of this book, and it’s jam-packed with incredible photography. Written in Jamie’s usual down-to-earth and easy-to-understand style, the methods are precise and have been tested to the hilt, so are guaranteed to work, but this time Jamie has turned the edit filter off, and shares extra hints, tips and ideas throughout to ensure you achieve the best possible results. This is about making food the very best it can be, and embracing the rituals of cooking.

Recipes include everything from mighty moussaka, delicate gyoza with crispy wings, steaming ramen and katsu curry to super eggs Benedict, scrumptious sticky toffee pudding and tutti frutti pear tarte tatin.

Treat yourself, and your loved ones, with Jamie’s Comfort Food.

Grab a copy of Jamie’s Comfort Food here

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EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: The Incompetent Cook with Matt Moran, author of Matt’s Kitchen Garden Cookbook

Matt Moran is one of Australia’s favourite chefs. From his humble upbringing on a dairy farm, he now runs one of Australia’s finest restaurants, ARIA, and hosts one of the biggest shows on TV, From Paddock to Plate on The Lifestyle Channel. But can he teach The Incompetent Cook a thing or two from his new book Matt’s Kitchen Garden Cookbook?

Grab a copy of Matt’s Kitchen Garden Cookbook here

Grab a copy of Matt’s Kitchen Garden Cookbook here

matt-s-kitchen-garden-cookbook-order-your-signed-copy-Matt’s Kitchen Garden Cookbook

by Matt Moran

Acclaimed chef Matt Moran shares his passion for local produce with this stunning collection of recipes.

Inspired by the market garden at his Sydney restaurant Chiswick, as well as time spent visiting producers all around Australia for his TV series Paddock to Plate, Matt dishes up a mouth-watering selection of recipes with this trademark deft touch and winning flavour combinations. Try the fresh, palate-sharpening pickled vegetables and dukkah or seared kingfish with radish, avocado and wasabi to start with, then tuck into slow-cooked lamb with hummus, tomato salad and mint salsa.

For sweet treats, look no further than apricot and rosemary tarts or berries and meringue with passionfruit curd.

About the Author

Matt Moran is the executive chef and co-owner of the award-winning ARIA restaurant, which enjoys one of the most enviable reputations and locations in Sydney, overlooking the Sydney Opera House and the harbour. In 2009 he opened a second ARIA restaurant, in Brisbane, in another stunning waterfront location on Eagle Street Pier. In 2012 Matt opened the doors to CHISWICK, in Sydney’s leafy Woollahra. The heart of the restaurant is the kitchen garden, where much of the restaurant’s produce is grown.

While Matt’s main focus remains his restaurants, he displays his passion for cooking in TV shows MasterChef, Junior MasterChef, The Chopping Block, My Restaurant Rules and Heat in the Kitchen. He is the author of three bestselling cookbooks, Matt Moran, When I Get Home and Dinner At Matt’s.

Grab a copy of Matt’s Kitchen Garden Cookbook here

9781921383618-29781921383618-49781921383618-39781921383618-59781921383618-6

Fiona O’Loughlin to feature on #AustralianStory on #ABCTV

me-of-the-never-neverFiona O’Loughlin emerged out of Alice Springs some thirteen years ago as a ‘fully formed’ 36 year old stand up comedy sensation.

She wowed local and international audiences with unconventional stories of raising five children in the outback.

Then after collapsing on stage in Brisbane, she confessed she was an alcoholic. But behind the scenes, the drinking got worse.

On Australian Story tonight, Ms O’Loughlin and those closest to her candidly confront the darkest demons of an issue that has famously bedevilled many male comedians, but is less acknowledged by women in the public eye.

Grab a copy of Fiona O’Loughlin’s memoir Me of the Never Never here

Grab a copy of Fiona O’Loughlin’s memoir Me of the Never Never here

me-of-the-never-neverMe of the Never Never

by Fiona O’Loughlin

‘Nothing turns out as you plan, I guess; but I often think if I’d gone to a fortune teller when I was at school and been told I’d marry a guy who makes false teeth, move to Alice Springs, have five kids and become a standup comedian; well, I would have been surprised to say the least.’

Fiona O Loughlin is certainly the funniest (and possibly one of the busiest) working mothers in Australia today: a stand-up comedian based in Alice Springs and Adelaide, she is on the road for most of the year, doing live performances, plus regular television appearances. Fiona has also had successful shows at the Edinburgh and Adelaide fringe festivals, the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

This book contains her stories funny and sometimes sad about her upbringing as part of a large Irish-Catholic family on a wheat farm in South Australia, her chaotic and disorganised family life ever since, living in Alice Springs and making it as a stand-up comedian. She also talks of a darker side of the life of many performers alcohol.

This book is for anyone who likes to laugh (and cry), who wants to read about a woman living her life on her terms.

Grab a copy of Fiona O’Loughlin’s memoir Me of the Never Never here

BOOK REVIEW: Hitler’s Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler’s Bodyguard by Rochus Misch (Review by Kate Forsyth)

9781925106107Anyone who is fascinated and troubled by Adolf Hitler and his actions will find much to interest them in this memoir written by one of his bodyguards, Rochus Misch. The Führer’s bodyguards accompanied him everywhere, and so were witnesses to many secret meetings and communications. Those hoping for insights into the psychology of Hitler will be disappointed.Misch was chosen as his bodyguard because he knew how to keep his head down, and his ears and eyes shut. He repeats several times that he was chosen because he was someone ‘who would give no trouble.’

Misch is not a natural writer. His style is dry and clipped and to the point (at times I could almost hear his German accent!) Nonetheless, much of his narrative is riveting, particularly as the Germans begin to lose the war and the Führer and his inner circle take up residence in a concrete bunker deep beneath the city. Misch must accompany them, leaving his wife and baby daughter to the mercies of the attacking Russians. He witnesses Hitler’s marriage to his long-time mistress, Evan Braun, and then the murder of the six Goebbels children by their mother. At this action, his matter-of-tone manner breaks down and his real anguish breaks through. ‘The most dreadful thing I experienced in the bunker was not his death. The worst thing was the killing of these children’. Misch was in the bunker till the bitter end, witnessing Hitler and his bride’s suicide and the final admission of defeat by the Nazi generals. His reward for his loyalty was to end up in the Russian torture chambers.

One of the most interesting things about the book is Misch’s unswerving loyalty to Hitler, and the painting of one of the world’s most vicious mass murderers as a normal man and ‘a wonderful boss.’

Grab a copy of Rochus Misch’s Hitler’s Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler’s Bodyguard here


Kate FKate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults.

She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite Novelists, coming in at No 16. She has been called one of ‘the finest writers of this generation”, and “quite possibly … one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’

Click here to see Kate’s author page

Julia Gillard talks to Booktopia TV about her memoir My Story

Julia Gillard’s memoir My Story is one of the most anticipated books of 2014. She chats with Booktopia TV about her political battles, writing her memoir, and what the future holds.

Grab a copy of Julia Gillard’s My Story here

my-storyMy Story

by Julia Gillard

‘I was Prime Minister for three years and three days.Three years and three days of resilience.Three years and three days of changing the nation.Three years and three days for you to judge.’

On Wednesday 23rd June 2010, with the government in turmoil, Julia Gillard asked then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for a leadership ballot.

The next day, Julia Gillard became Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, and our first female leader. Australia was alive to the historic possibilities. Here was a new approach for a new time.

It was to last three extraordinary years.

This is Julia Gillard’s chronicle of that turbulent time – a strikingly candid self-portrait of a political leader seeking to realise her ideals. It is her story of what it was like – in the face of government in-fighting and often hostile media – to manage a hung parliament, build a diverse and robust economy, create an equitable and world-class education system, ensure a dignified future for Australians with disabilities, all while attending to our international obligations and building strategic alliances for our future. This is a politician driven by a sense of purpose – from campus days with the Australian Union of Students, to a career in the law, to her often gritty, occasionally glittering rise up the ranks of the Australian Labor Party.

Refreshingly honest, peppered with a wry humour and personal insights, Julia Gillard does not shy away from her mistakes, admitting freely to errors, misjudgements, and policy failures as well as detailing her political successes. Here is an account of what was hidden behind the resilience and dignified courage Gillard showed as prime minister – her view of the vicious hate campaigns directed against her, and a reflection on what it means – and what it takes – to be a woman leader in contemporary politics.

Here, in her own words, Julia Gillard reveals what life was really like as Australia’s first female prime minister.

Grab a copy of Julia Gillard’s My Story here

 

Booktopia’s Book Trailer of the Week

This week’s Booktopia Book Trailer of the Week goes to Adam Liaw’s new cookbook Adam’s Big Pot.

Nice work Adam and the team from Hachette Australia!

Grab a copy of Adam’s Big Pot here

adam-s-big-potAdam’s Big Pot

Easy Meals for Your Family

Want simple, healthy and delicious meals? Quickly? Masterchef winner Adam Liaw is back to help!

Adam’s Big Pot is a cookbook for modern families. In his latest cookbook, Adam Liaw shows you how to prepare easy family meals and gives new answers for that age-old question: ‘What’s for dinner?’ In this beautifully photographed cookbook, Adam takes a practical and creative approach to family cooking, creating new flavours from ingredients you already know, all in just one big wok, pan, dish or pot.

From fresh Vietnamese salads and simple South African curries, to Korean grilled pork belly and one-pot Japanese classics, the dishes in Adam’s Big Pot are basic enough for the novice home cook, affordable enough to feed the whole family, and can all be made from basic supermarket ingredients. Whether you’re after easy classics like shaking beef, mee goreng and lamb vindaloo or looking to add new dishes to your repertoire like tiger-skin chicken, snapper rice and Japanese souffle cheesecake, Adam’s Big Pot is your guide to simple, creative family cooking.

Grab a copy of Adam’s Big Pot here

 

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