Can You Hear the Sea?

Brenda Niall

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'An affectionate tribute to someone who quietly but firmly shaped her own place in the world.' Books+Publishing

Brenda Niall has turned her biographer's eye to a personal subject--her grandmother, Aggie. She tells the story of a fiercely independent and intelligent woman who braved a new country as a single woman, teaching in a country school, before marrying a Riverina grazier, whose large powerful family was wary of the newcomer with ideas of her own.

Aggie dealt with hardships and loneliness after the early and drawn-out death of her husband, and brought up her seven children to be happy--all with a calm determination. But it was the memory box and her longing for the sea that captured the imagination of her granddaughter.

Brenda Niallis one of Australia's foremost biographers. She is the author of five award-winning biographies, including her acclaimed accounts of the Boyd family. In 2016 she won the Australian Literature Society's Gold Medal and the National Biography Award for Mannix.

Brenda has degrees from the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University and Monash 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 Heraldand Australian Book Review.

'Can You Hear the Sea?creates a portrait, from other kinds of evidence, of a woman whose silence sealed her most intimate moments. With a light touch, Niall looks at her grandmother's life through the prism of the imaginative world in which she was immersed...Aggie's is a story of independence and grit: understated, necessary, uncelebrated.' Australian

'Aggies gift of the shell and the empty box put two questions to Brenda Niall. They also addressed her craft and her desire. Could she recreate the sounds and feel of the past out of unpromising materials, and could she fill the empty box while recognising that it remained empty? This book answers both questions with assurance. One might hope that among the next generation of Aggie's descendants another young person will hear in it the sea that flows into story telling.' Eureka Street

'Niall's beautifully told tale will have echoes in thousands of other Australian families.' SA Weekend

'Gentle and engaging biography...Aggie was undoubtedly a remarkable and intelligent woman, and this book is a lovely testament to her life.' Good Reading

'Insightful.' Yours

'[Niall] is clear about her process, asking questions, noting gaps, offering her own memories with an easy blend of intimacy and distance, in an authoritative yet conversational voice...Niall writes with respect for a woman who built a dynasty across centuries, was adventurous and stable, traditional and ahead of her time, English and embodied the best of Australia.' Australian Book Review

'Agnes's story charts the changing role of women in the colonies, the impact of the world wars and the rise and fall of family fortunes...Niall's beautifully told tale will have echoes in thousands of other Australian families.' SA Weekend

'Niall's skill is to listen with a discerning ear, to acknowledge the views and to seek always the social, political and historical context and influences. Her craft as a skilled biographer gives her grandmother a fresh life, one that will resonate with many in families of similar background, but wider than that, provide another piece in the picture of the European settlement of Australasia.' Otago Daily Times

'A fascinating subject...Hopefully people still find ways to write biographies that so adeptly capture the particularity of lived experience.' Saturday Paper

ISBN: 9781925498790
Publication Date: 30-Oct-2017
Publisher: Text Publishing Company