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Brenda Niall, arguably Australia’s foremost biographer, looks back on her own life and the circumstances, events and choices that shaped her career.
My Accidental Career spans nine decades, from her childhood in the Melbourne suburb of Kew—where powerful neighbours included prime minister Menzies, millionaire gambler John Wren and Archbishop Daniel Mannix—to her university days, her first job writing reviews for a magazine and her travels in Ireland after breaking off her engagement to a suitable young man. It’s a lively account of academic life at the newly established Monash University in the 1960s, a time when women were rare in university departments and even more rarely promoted, the snakes and ladders ups and downs of her time in the US, and of her charting new territory in Australian biography with acclaimed works on artists, writers and leaders.
Brenda Niall’s career isn’t one of struggle against the odds in a man’s world but one of quiet, confident work that couldn’t be ignored. Her Jane Austen-like wit and elegant prose enlivens this story of Australian women’s history seen through the lens of her remarkable life.
‘Brenda Niall is in a class of her own…Her books have all been works of insight and substance, their observations carefully considered.’
‘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.’