Reviewer: JF

By this author


Books March 04, 2017

Time to Die

Death is increasingly welcome in our society. There are lives heartbreakingly cut short in their prime by crime, sudden illness and accident. But for the majority of us, drifting into pain and indignity, the words about our deaths are likely to be “merciful”, …

Books December 10, 2016

The Age of Jihad

Patrick Cockburn is an Irishman and starts his book with the familiar, but here so appropriate, verse from Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold …” The Middle East didn’t just break open by itself, as Cockburn lays out in devastating …

Books November 12, 2016

Beyond the Vapour Trail

Non-government agencies are a “fifth estate” in international politics. Governments like them during disasters, hate them at other times: they look at systemic causes of misery after treating the symptoms, then try to turn tables by empowering the …

Books August 27, 2016

In Other Words

For more than 40 years, Indonesians have enjoyed, and puzzled over, columns written by Goenawan Mohamad in the weekly magazine Tempo. The columns, usually no more than 800 words, are reflective sometimes to the point of dreaminess. They refer …

Books August 06, 2016

Against Elections

This Flemish Belgian political writer disputes that elections, even free and fair ones, equal democracy. If so, why do citizens want more than they are getting in Western countries? Politicians, media and business are pulling each other down in a “Bermuda …

Books July 02, 2016

Firing Line: Australia’s Path to War

The last time Australia declared war was 1942, against Bulgaria and Thailand, to tidy up our official state of belligerence. Which is not to say we haven’t been in any wars since. Far from it: we just need to be asked. And often, we ask to be asked. …

Books June 11, 2016

The Dry

Flies buzz over congealing pools of blood in a Victorian farmhouse. Karen lies dead in the hallway, her little boy in the bedroom where he’d tried to hide. A baby wails from her cot in another room. Out in a paddock, Karen’s husband, Luke, sprawls …

Books April 16, 2016

My Journey into the Heart of Terror

Jürgen Todenhöfer is a household name in Germany where he’s been a judge, a member of federal parliament, a journalist making risky journeys into some of the nastiest recent wars, a publishing executive and a philanthropist − mostly at the same …

Books April 09, 2016

Our Man Elsewhere

Alan Moorehead is a strange obsession for a former editor of The Big Issue. Even for baby boomers, the name was on the spines in the bookshelves of their parents, rather than ones they bought themselves. For younger generations, it had vanished. …

Books March 12, 2016

Talking to My Country

Why we haven’t yet had an Aboriginal secession movement − say, a uranium republic declared in part of Arnhem Land − is a puzzle. Half the United Nations would probably recognise it. Stan Grant’s part-memoir explains why. Raised around country …

Books December 05, 2015

Winter Is Coming

Garry Kasparov, son of a Russian Jewish father and Armenian mother, emerged from the Caspian Sea city of Baku as a chess prodigy to become world champion in 1985, at 22 the youngest to have won that title. He stayed at the top of the game for nearly …

Books June 27, 2015

Certain Admissions

John Bryan Kerr was a cause célèbre in 1950s Melbourne in two ways. Charged with strangling a typist on a city beach one summer night, the suave young radio compere, a Scotch College old boy, quickly became a dark celebrity. Onlookers, mostly young …

Books February 21, 2015

The Rise and Fall of Gunns Ltd

For a state whose economic prospects are so clearly tied to its natural endowments, Tasmania has long seemed devoted to destroying its future. As this book explains, the war on nature recently extended to native vegetation, including the majestic mountain …

Books January 31, 2015

The Torch

It is 1960 and high summer in the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond. As if the heat’s not bad enough, the fire brigade is rushing from blaze to blaze and the coppers are out looking for young arsonist Keith Kavanagh, known in the tabloids as “The …

Books November 15, 2014

The Seasons of Trouble

Hiding up a mango tree, Mugil listens to the cries below from the five teenage girls in her Tamil Tiger unit as they are bashed, raped, then finished off by their Sri Lankan army captors. Mugil is now a disillusioned veteran of 21. She walks away from …

Books October 18, 2014

To Name Those Lost

Blood, gore, slobber, vomit, piss, filth, soot and ashes are splattered across the pages of Rohan Wilson’s new novel, set in a Tasmania far removed from the epicurean Apple Isle of today. The year is 1874, only 70 years after its founding as the harshest …