E-books and audiobooks reviews: non-fiction

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 January, 2015, 10:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 January, 2015, 10:32pm

Margaret & Gough
by Susan Mitchell
Hachette Australia

That they were a successful double act is made clear in Susan Mitchell’s book about the late Margaret and Gough Whitlam, Australia’s prime minister from 1972 to 1975 and an Australian Labor Party titan. Coming months after his death last year, aged 98, the book is a reminder of his achievements before his controversial dismissal by the governor-general, and a touching story of his loving partnership with a woman he considered his equal. Having previously written a biography of Margaret Whitlam, Mitchell realised theirs was a separate story, which she begins when they locked eyes in 1939. They had complementary personalities that would suit them well as Australian leader and his first lady: he had no time for small talk; she was a charming conversationalist. He went in for the kill; Margaret, a social worker, was more measured. Both were feminists and he was known for his crusading ways (introducing policies for education, urban planning, health, Aboriginal land rights, among others). He was also the first Australian leader to visit China. This is an engaging read.


Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life
by Shannon Ables
Simple Luxurious Publishing

This is meant as a guide for the modern woman. Not any modern woman, mind, but those who choose a simply luxurious life. On the second point, Shannon Ables may be able to argue she is providing good advice on how to dress, shop, eat, invest and the like. On the first, though, she's misguided: no thinking woman needs to be told such things as "Don't buy things you can't afford", "The mark of a chic, classy, modern woman is her ability to always be mysterious" or "Understand what makes you tick". Born from a blog, this book falls into the self-help category, and like the many titles that purport to improve one's outlook and esteem, it stacks cliche upon cliche. A high-school English teacher, Ables started the blog to seek answers to her own questions. One can only wonder what she was asking herself if she feels she needs to tell her readers to be themselves, have no regrets and … remove all make-up before getting into bed. Perhaps this modern woman just wants to say: who has time to read such nonsense these days?


The Secret History of Wonder Woman
by Jill Lepore
Random House Audio

Margaret Sanger may be one of the 20th century's most famous feminists, but few will be aware of her connection to Wonder Woman, the tiara-wearing superheroine created in 1941 by William Moulton Marston; the comic was inspired by the suffragist, feminist and birth-control movements of the 1900s and 1910s. The corseted pin-up girl reflected his life and loves, including two women who bore him four children and with whom he lived under the same roof in secret: one was Elizabeth "Sadie" Holloway, the other was Olive Byrne, Sanger's niece. Harvard historian Jill Lepore, who narrates the book, has done impressive sleuthing to uncover, as she says, the secret history of Wonder Woman, whose storylines were sometimes classic feminist plots. She examines, among other things, the comic's influence on the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and '70s. Why Wonder Woman remained an enigma is thought provoking, as is the portrait of Marston, a scientist and creator of the lie-detector test - even as he led a life of half-truths.