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Ante Antietam

Michael Irwin, 24 January 1980

Confederates 
by Thomas Keneally.
Collins, 427 pp., £5.75, October 1980, 0 00 222141 1
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Just Above My Head 
by James Baldwin.
Joseph, 597 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 7181 1764 6
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Winter Doves 
by David Cook.
Secker, 213 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 436 10673 6
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All Girls Together 
by Paula Neuss.
Duckworth, 141 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 7156 1454 1
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... The novel becomes a farrago of information. In choosing to write about the American Civil War Thomas Keneally ran several additional risks. The potential subject-matter is dauntingly multifarious. How could so vast a tragedy be focused and individualised? It was a war that fairly compels the commentator to take sides. Can the novelist do so without ...

Grand Gestures

Janette Turner Hospital, 25 May 1995

A River Town 
by Thomas Keneally.
Sceptre, 330 pp., £15.99, March 1995, 9780340610930
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... signs and wonders. They inspire large gestures towards New Beginnings. In 1900, the year in which Thomas Keneally’s most recent novel situates itself, the separate Australian colonies were reeling from economic depression and the worst drought since European settlement began in 1788. There were catastrophic losses of cattle and sheep, wheat plummeted ...

Golden Fleece

W.R. Mead, 1 March 1984

Sheep and Man 
by M.L. Ryder.
Duckworth, 846 pp., £55, November 1983, 0 7156 1655 2
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Outback 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 256 pp., £12.95, October 1983, 0 340 33669 2
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... language of a land such as God gave Cain – or Mina Minahan, to select one of the characters that Thomas Keneally pulls in from Australia’s badlands and sets amid the colourful photographs of Mark Lang and Gary Hansen. Sheep and Man, offering history to the scientist and biology to the historian, fits into no particular discipline. It rejects ...

God’s Gift to Australia

C.K. Stead, 24 September 1992

Woman of an Inner Sea 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 284 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 340 53148 7
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... Macquarie, or its near neighbour the Bogan, must be the unnamed river that figures, and floods, in Thomas Keneally’s new novel. Keneally, too, has mythic ambitions. His heroine, Kate, born Gaffney, married Kozinski, is escaping from a failed marriage and a consequent disaster so appalling we are not told what it is ...

Whitlam Fictions

Zachary Leader, 16 February 1989

Kisses of the Enemy 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 622 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 571 15091 8
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Postcards from Surfers 
by Helen Garner.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0272 2
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Forty-Seventeen 
by Frank Moorhouse.
Faber, 175 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 571 15210 4
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... newly-formed Australia Council. Behind established international figures such as Patrick White, Thomas Keneally and now Peter Carey crowds a small army – a second wave, as it were – of grant-garlanded and prize-bedecked novelists and storytellers, many of whom, especially those whose reputations derive initially from short fiction, have benefited ...

Carrying on with a foreign woman

John Sutherland, 7 November 1985

Galapagos 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 269 pp., £9.50, October 1985, 0 224 02847 2
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A Family Madness 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 315 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 340 38449 2
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A Storm from Paradise 
by Stuart Hood.
Carcanet, 188 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 85635 582 8
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Samarkand 
by John Murray.
Aidan Ellis, 255 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 85628 151 4
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The Sicilian 
by Mario Puzo.
Bantam, 410 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 0 593 01001 9
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Putting the boot in 
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 192 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 224 02332 2
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... people are really good at heart.’ But, of course, Anne wrote that before the Germans got her. Thomas Keneally likes to run his fiction close to historical fact. An appended note to A Family Madness indicates the novel’s source: ‘In a suburb of Sydney, Australia, in July 1984, a family of five willingly ended their lives. Their consent to their ...

Holocaust Art

Robert Taubman, 10 January 1983

Schindler’s Ark 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 432 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 340 27838 2
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... world, the leaders are indeed quite incredible. Höss of Auschwitz, Lalka of Treblinka – and now Keneally adds another of the same, Amon Goeth of Plaszow – display the same indistinguishable Ordinariness as Adolf Eichmann, to whom Hannah Arendt devoted her ‘Report on the Banality of Evil’. What makes them so fantastic is reckoning their ordinariness ...

World’s End

John Sutherland, 1 October 1987

The Day of Creation 
by J.G. Ballard.
Gollancz, 254 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 575 04152 8
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The Playmaker 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 310 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 340 34154 8
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In the Skin of a Lion 
by Michael Ondaatje.
Secker, 244 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 436 34009 7
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The House of Hospitalities 
by Emma Tennant.
Viking, 184 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 670 81501 2
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... found. This latest work will enhance his reputation as a leading writer with no strings attached. Thomas Keneally’s The Playmaker is actually about the making of Australia and commemorates (the blurbist’s ‘celebrates’ is not the word) the bicentenary of the founding of the English colony in January 1788. It is the kind of subject that would ...

Diary

Tom Nairn: The Australian elections, 13 December 2007

... other remarkable versions of essentially the same tale: Kate Grenville’s The Secret River,2 Thomas Keneally’s The Commonwealth of Thieves3 and Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria.4 The mystery of the stolen continent. Naturally, Australian readers know in advance who did it – and in a sense are still doing it. Newcomers took the country from the ...

Survivors

Jonathan Steinberg, 18 December 1986

Strangers in their own Land: Young Jews in Germany and Austria Today 
by Peter Sichrovsky and Thomas Keneally.
Tauris, 177 pp., £10.95, May 1986, 1 85043 033 0
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Remnants: The Last Jews of Poland 
by Malgorzata Niezabitowska and Tomasz Tomaszewski, translated by William Brand and Hanna Dobosiewicz.
Friendly Press, 272 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 914919 05 9
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The Jews in Poland 
edited by Chimen Abramsky, Maciej Jachimczyk and Antony Polonsky.
Blackwell, 264 pp., £29.50, September 1986, 0 631 14857 4
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... On 20 July 1943 the Polish artist Jonasz Stern was executed along with hundreds of other Jews of the Lwow ghetto by SS machine-gun fire. He awoke from a faint to find himself alive, buried under the corpses of the entire neighbourhood, covered in other people’s blood and excrement, the only survivor on Janowski Street. Two of the books reviewed here are about survivors, people who turned right instead of left, ran instead of lingering or lingered instead of running, those who met kindly Polish peasants or had ‘good faces’ – did not look Jewish, that is to say – individuals who survived, crazily, randomly, inexplicably, when everybody else, not just their families but neighbours, associates at work, team-mates, local shopkeepers, their whole world, was murdered ...

Her Guns

Jeremy Harding, 8 March 1990

The View from the Ground 
by Martha Gellhorn.
Granta, 459 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 14 014200 2
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Towards Asmara 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 320 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 340 41517 7
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... of Gellhorn’s fiction, the characters develop against a backdrop of war. The same is true of Thomas Keneally’s most recent novel. It is set in Eritrea, the former Italian colony on the Red Sea which the Emperor Haile Selassie annexed to the Ethiopian empire in 1962. Since 1961 the Eritreans have fought a long and often intensive war for ...

The Habit of War

Jeremy Harding: Eritrea, 20 July 2006

I Didn’t Do It for You: How the World Used and Abused a Small African Nation 
by Michela Wrong.
Harper Perennial, 432 pp., £8.99, January 2005, 0 00 715095 4
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Unfinished Business: Ethiopia and Eritrea at War 
edited by Dominique Jacquin-Berdal and Martin Plaut.
Red Sea, 320 pp., $29.95, April 2005, 1 56902 217 8
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Battling Terrorism in the Horn of Africa 
edited by Robert Rotberg.
Brookings, 210 pp., £11.99, December 2005, 0 8157 7571 7
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... audience is a daunting prospect and few people have tried; the most successful, until now, was Thomas Keneally, whose novel Towards Asmara (1989), set in the guerrilla-held areas at the time of the liberation war, was a picaresque homage to the Eritrean people. Michela Wrong has attempted something different: an idiosyncratic, free-ranging history of ...

Diary

Peter Craven: On the Demidenko Affair, 16 November 1995

... in Kuznetsov’s Babi Yar. It is repeated in Martin Gilbert’s The Holocaust and is used in D.M. Thomas’s The White Hotel, both of which Darville admits having read. Five days later, subterranean whispers of plagiarism had turned into a shriek. Not only did The Hand That Signed the Paper open with a sentence that appears to have been cribbed from ...

Who was David Peterley?

Michael Holroyd, 15 November 1984

... has enriched our recent fiction – most remarkably, perhaps, the novels of Peter Ackroyd, D.M. Thomas, Beryl Bainbridge, Julian Barnes and Thomas Keneally, whose Schindler’s Ark was marketed in America (under a slightly different title) as non-fiction and in Britain as a novel. Writers of light fiction, too, have ...

In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... Nobody expected Penelope Fitzgerald to win the Booker Prize in 1979 for her novel Offshore. Keneally was also on the shortlist, with Naipaul’s A Bend in the River the clear frontrunner. Julian Barnes remembers Paul Theroux, who was judging, saying he would ‘skim out into the pampas’ the candidates he considered non-starters; back from Patagonia, there he sat at the Booker dinner, ‘a polite smile on his face ...

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