I’ve been doing more ‘Aussie’ reading than usual recently and can recommend some books I especially enjoyed.
Modern Love: The Lives of John and Sunday Reed by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan, was published in 2015. It tells the extraordinary story of the two art patrons and collectors who lived at Heide near Melbourne. The Heide Museum of Modern Art is their remarkable legacy. The book reveals the goings-on in the ‘Heide Circle’ and the intertwined relationships of the Reeds with Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester, Albert Tucker, Max Harris, and many other writers and painters. The book was well written, and fascinating from beginning to end.
Shadowboxing by Tony Birch is a collection of ten linked stories about a boy growing up in 1960s Melbourne. His father drinks and is violent, and the family endures loss and forced removals. Tony Birch was the first Indigenous writer to win the Patrick White Award. Although the name of the boy in the stories is Michael, not Tony, it is clear that most of the material comes straight from the author’s life. The book was a very moving one, and beautifully written. I will look for more of his work.
Stalin’s Wine Cellar by John Baker and Nick Place is not a beautifully written book like the above, but it does tell an extraordinary story. A Double Bay wine merchant and his Canadian assistant travelled to Tbilisi in Georgia to check out a fabled cellar full of wines, said to have belonged to Tsar Nicholas II and to Stalin, and to discover if they were being hoaxed or if the cellar was the real thing. They found dark, damp cellars where wine racks had collapsed from age (smashing marvellous wines in the process), but what was still there was more than exciting – about 40,000 bottles of rare wines with a probable provenance that could be tremendously exciting. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you more, but the tale from these wine experts was quite something.