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Four Australian women writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—a time when stories of bush heroism and mateship abounded, a time when a writing career might be an elusive thing for a woman.
Friends and Rivals is a vivid and engaging account of the intersecting and entwined lives of Ethel Turner, author of the much loved Seven Little Australians, Barbara Baynton, who wrote of the harshness of bush life, Nettie Palmer, essayist and critic, and Henry Handel Richardson, of The Getting of Wisdom and The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney fame.
Brenda Niall illuminates a fascinating time in Australia’s literary history and brings to life the remarkable women who made it so.
‘Deeply absorbing, fascinating and moving…now for the first time I have a sense of the women behind me…I loved the tone—detached and masterly but with a light touch, and a wit that’s sharp but never cruel; and always sympathetically attuned to the strain of the women’s attempts to find a balance between their inner and outer lives.’
‘Few other writers have such an ability to understand and describe the relationships that create the characters of her subjects.’
‘Brenda Niall is in a class of her own…Her books have all been works of insight and substance, their observations carefully considered.’
‘Friends and Rivals goes beyond solitary portraiture and linear catalogue to place its subjects in their landscape…Rich and digressive, these portraits are open-seamed, their complex maps pointing towards other layers, other stories, named experience alongside the unnamed and the unnameable, elision and fiction jostling.’
‘[A] formidable combination of meticulous scholarship, reader-friendly lucidity, and ideas…about the nature of feminism, biography, and Australian literary and cultural history, and about the many places where those things intersect.’
‘Among living Australian biographers, only Philip Ayres matches Brenda Niall for painstaking research serving narratives at once spirited and judicious…Dr Niall ignores nothing.’
‘An entertaining exploration of the overlapping lives of four of Australia’s most admired women writers.’
‘Elegant, incisive and readable’
‘This joint biography uses previously hidden material, now in the hands of a more than gifted author who takes us on a literary journey to find out what we’ve been missing.’
‘An immaculately researched and highly readable group portrait…Brings the Australian literary world in the first half of the last century to life, while reminding us how little has changed about human nature.’