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 the author of five award-winning biographies, including her acclaimed accounts of the Boyd family and her portrait of the Durack sisters, True North. In 2016 she won the Australian Literature Society’s Gold Medal and the National Biography Award for Mannix. In 2004 she was awarded the Order of Australia for ‘services to Australian literature, as an academic, biographer and literary critic’.
‘Brenda Niall is in a class of her own…Her books have all been works of insight and substance, their observations carefully considered.’ Michael McGirr, Age