Daniel Mannix is a formidable subject for a host of reasons, not least the burning of his private papers, but Brenda Niall’s biography rises to the challenge of recovery, the challenge of this life history, triangulated as it was between Dublin, Rome and Melbourne.
From the Easter Rising in Dublin to the ferocious conscription campaigns of wartime Australia, from the cause of Irish nationalism to the birth of Catholic Action, from the rise of fascism and a second World War to the anti-communist campaigns of the Cold War, and from there to the great issues confronted in Vatican II. Mannix strides through all of this and more, and at the age of 98 this ‘permissive autocrat’ is still pitching from afar, this time for the cause of freedom of conscience in the great deliberations in Rome (Vatican II).
Brenda Niall has managed to recover both the public identity and something of the fiercely protected private self, and to create a beautifully balanced portrait, providing a vivid and coherent sense of this most challenging and elusive character. Such an achievement called for analytical skill and vision. It also required a writer of silky smooth prose. Mannix is a biography of immense charm and elegance.
About the Author
Brenda Niall is one of Australia’s foremost biographers. She is the author of four award-winning biographies, including her acclaimed accounts of the Boyd family. Brenda has degrees from the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University and Monash University. She has held visiting fellowships at the University of Michigan, Yale University and the Australian National University. In 2004 she was awarded the Order of Australia for ‘services to Australian literature, as an academic, biographer and literary critic’. She frequently reviews for the Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Book Review.