Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mannix, by Brenda Niall

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Brenda Niall has written an engaging and somewhat personal biography of Archbishop Daniel Mannix, a pivotal figure in Australia's political and cultural life during the first half of the 20th century. 

“A disruptive force in Australia, an anti-British agitator in the United States, and a nightmare to the British government...” writes biographer Brenda Niall of her subject, Archbishop Daniel Mannix. Born in Ireland in 1864, details of Mannix's first 50 years remain sketchy. The Catholic Church sent Mannix to Australia in 1912, at the age of forty-nine. He was soon involved in national issues, most notably the conscription referendum of 1916. Throughout his long career until his death at the age of ninety-nine, Mannix remained intellectually vigorous and active. His opinion had the power to shift votes and allegiances.

Although his style was reserved and his humour dry, his politics often veered towards the progressive. He denounced the use of the atomic bomb, argued against the White Australia Policy and was concerned about Aboriginal welfare.

Archbishop Mannix was a complex and elusive character. Brenda Niall works up an engaging and fascinating portrait, seen through his involvement in key political and religious controversies. Mannix, who kept his private self from view, seemed shy and lonely. For readers interested in the political and cultural life of Australia during the first half of the 20th century, Brenda Niall's highly readable biography will reward handsomely.

Mannix, by Brenda Niall. Published by Text. ISBN: 9781922182111 RRP: $50

This review was first published in Books + Publishing magazine.  

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