Daniel Mannix, Archbishop of Melbourne from 1917 until his death, aged ninety-nine, in 1963, was a towering figure in Melbourne’s Catholic community. But his political interventions had a profound effect on the wider Australian nation too.
Award-winning biographer Brenda Niall has made some unexpected discoveries in Irish and Australian archives which overturn some widely held views. She also draws on her own memories of meeting and interviewing Mannix to get to the essence of this man of contradictions, controversies and mystery.
Mannix is not only an astonishing new look at a remarkable life, but a fascinating depiction of Melbourne in the first half last century.
‘Clerical lives are too often reverential. They celebrate; they don’t admit imperfection. It’s a closed world, and a woman biographer trying to enter it might be called courageous in the Yes Minister sense.’ Read Brenda Niall on her writing and research for Mannix.
‘Brenda Niall works up an engaging and fascinating portrait, seen through Mannix’s involvement in key political and religious controversies. For readers interested in the political and cultural life of Australia during the first half of the 20th century, Niall’s highly readable biography will reward handsomely.’
‘Brenda Niall’s central challenge was to uncover the personal face of Mannix from his public speeches…She does this modestly and penetratingly, raising questions and looking for consistencies and surprises.’
‘This is the best life of Mannix we have, superior to other attempts…Writing from inside the Melbourne Catholic experience, Brenda Niall shows how people’s affection for Mannix muted their criticisms of him—even if they knew better. This is one of the significant strengths of a rich book.’
‘I should say that I expected to take my time over this biography, as I usually do, reading a chapter every other day. But not so, I could not put it down.’
‘For my money, Brenda Niall’s Mannix is the most wise, shrewd and elegant biography yet produced of this complex and beguiling man. Niall’s irresistible prose strengthens the candour of this fine book.’
‘Calmly magisterial…Niall gives a sense of Mannix’s greatness and of why we can still be awed by him.’
‘With characteristic insight, sensitivity, and tact, Niall confirms that Daniel Mannix is a major, if elusive, figure in the modern history of Australia, Ireland, and the Catholic Church…a balanced and convincing account of Mannix’s life and times, neither hagiography nor its opposite.’
‘An extraordinary man and an extraordinary book.’
‘Among living Australian biographers, only Philip Ayres matches Brenda Niall for painstaking research serving narratives at once spirited and judicious…Dr Niall ignores nothing.’
‘A biography should not keep you from your chores or have you up past the bedtime to which you’ve become accustomed. That is what thrillers and detective yarns are for…Brenda Niall’s wonderful telling of the life of Daniel Mannix has broken that mould…This book is the work of a master of the art of biography…Gripping.‘
‘Brenda Niall, the distinguished biographer of the novelist Martin Boyd and author of a swag of other books, has written a fond and fluent life of Mannix that captures the crispness and the passion, the humour and the enigma of the man who meddled with politics like a master magician.’