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Ethel Livesey was quite a gal. An attractive young woman from a respectable middle-class family in Manchester, she had 41 aliases, eight legitimate marriages, four divorces and at least four children, and her story stretches from industrial England to the French Riviera, from Ireland to New York, Shanghai, New Zealand, the Isle of Man and across Australia.
Ethel claimed she was a wartime nurse, casino hostess, stowaway, artist, opera singer, gambler, spy, actress, movie star, close friend of the King, cotton heiress, wife of Australian cricketer Jack Fingleton, air raid warden, charity queen - all before she was finally arrested in Australia in 1945. But what was fact and what was fiction?
When her career imploded (with the abandonment of her glittering marriage to a wealthy Sydney socialite, just two hours before the guests were due to arrive), the story of The Amazing Mrs Livesey was blazoned across newspapers around the world for nearly a year, enthralling the public with her adventures. But even then the whole truth never emerged - until now...
Freda Nicholls' account of Ethel's life is 'purportedly' written by her son Frank, a rough but loveable Aussie sundowner, who spoke extensively with his mother about her past after she evaded a lengthy prison sentence in 1946. It is based on tapes and transcripts Frank recorded two years before his death, as well as numerous court, police, divorce and immigration records, and contemporary newspaper articles.
Margot Asquith was perhaps the most daring and unconventional Prime Minister's wife in British history. Known for her wit, style and habit of speaking her mind, she transformed 10 Downing Street into a glittering social and intellectual salon. Yet her last four years at Number 10 were a period of intense emotional and political turmoil in her private and public life.
In 1912, when Anne de Courcy's book opens, rumblings of discontent and cries for social reform were encroaching on all sides - from suffragettes, striking workers and Irish nationalists. Against this background of a government beset with troubles, the Prime Minister fell desperately in love with his daughter's best friend, Venetia Stanley; to complicate matters, so did his Private Secretary. Margot's relationship with her husband was already bedevilled by her stepdaughter's jealous, almost incestuous adoration of her father. The outbreak of the First World War only heightened these swirling tensions within Downing Street.
Drawing on unpublished material from personal papers and diaries, Anne de Courcy vividly recreates this extraordinary time when the Prime Minister's residence was run like an English country house, with socialising taking precedence over politics, love letters written in the cabinet room and gossip and state secrets exchanged over the bridge table.
By 1916, when Asquith was forced out of office, everything had changed. For the country as a whole, for those in power, for a whole stratum of society, but especially for the Asquiths and their circle, it was the end of an era. Life inside Downing Street would never be the same again.
Without Churchill's inspiring leadership Britain could not have survived its darkest hour and repelled the Nazi menace. Without his wife Clementine, however, he might never have become Prime Minister. By his own admission, the Second World War would have been 'impossible without her'.
Clementine was Winston's emotional rock and his most trusted confidante; not only was she involved in some of the most crucial decisions of war, but she exerted an influence over her husband and the Government that would appear scandalous to modern eyes. Yet her ability to charm Britain's allies and her humanitarian efforts on the Home Front earned her deep respect, both behind closed doors in Whitehall and among the population at large.
That Clementine should become Britain's 'First Lady' was by no means pre-ordained. Born into impecunious aristocracy, her childhood was far from gilded. Her mother was a serial adulteress and gambler, who spent many years uprooting her children to escape the clutches of their erstwhile father, and by the time Clementine entered polite society she had become the target of cruel snobbery and rumours about her parentage.
In Winston, however, she discovered a partner as emotionally insecure as herself, and in his career she found her mission. Her dedication to his cause may have had tragic consequences for their children, but theirs was a marriage that changed the course of history. Now, acclaimed biographer Sonia Purnell explores the peculiar dynamics of this fascinating union.
From the personal and political upheavals of the Great War, through the Churchills' 'wilderness years' in the 1930s, to Clementine's desperate efforts to preserve her husband's health during the struggle against Hitler, Sonia presents the inspiring but often ignored story of one of the most important women in modern history.
This is the heartrending account of Zakia and Mohammad Ali, a couple from opposing ethnic sects, who defying their society's norms have left behind everything they know and are quite literally risking their lives for their love. Friends from childhood, Zakia and Mohammad Ali could never have predicted that their love would anger their families so much that they would be forced to leave their homes finding refuge only in the harsh terrain of the Afghani mountains. Without money or passports they rely on the kindness of strangers to house them for a couple of days at a time as they remain on the run, never deterred. New York Times journalist, Rod Nordland, has chronicled the plight of the young lovers telling their extraordinary story of courage, perseverance and love in one of the world's most troubled countries. This moving love story is told against the bigger backdrop of the horrific but widespread practices that women are subjected to in Afghanistan.
'I was hoping against hope that the penguin would survive because as of that instant he had a name, and with his name came the beginning of a bond which would last a life-time.'
Tom Michell is in his roaring twenties: single, free-spirited and seeking adventure. He has a plane ticket to South America, a teaching position in a prestigious Argentine boarding school, and endless summer holidays. He even has a motorbike, Che Guevara style. What he doesn't need is a pet. What he really doesn't need is a pet penguin. Set against Argentina's turbulent years following the collapse of the corrupt Peronist regime, this is the heart-warming story of Juan Salvador the penguin, rescued by Tom from an oil slick in Uruguay just days before a new term. When the bird refuses to leave Tom's side, the young teacher has no choice but to smuggle it across the border, through customs, and back to school. Whether it's as the rugby team's mascot, the housekeeper's confidant, the host at Tom's parties or the most flamboyant swimming coach in world history, Juan Salvador transforms the lives of all he meets - in particular one homesick school boy. And as for Tom, he discovers in Juan Salvador a compadre like no other...
The Penguin Lessons is a unique and moving true story which has captured imaginations around the globe - for all those who dreamed as a child they might one day talk to the animals.
An Honorary Citizen of the U.S.A., and designated as one of the Righteous among the Nations by Israel, Raoul Wallenberg's heroism in Budapest at the height of the Holocaust saved countless lives, and ultimately cost him his own.
A series of unlikely coincidences led to the appointment of Wallenberg, by trade a poultry importer, as Sweden's Special Envoy to Budapest in 1944. With remarkable bravery, Wallenberg created a system of protective passports, and sheltered thousands of desperate Jews in buildings he claimed were Swedish libraries and research institutes. As the war drew to a close, his invaluable work almost complete, Wallenberg voluntarily went to meet with the Soviet troops who were relieving the city. Arrested as a spy, Wallenberg disappeared into the depths of the Soviet system, never to be seen again.
For this seminal biography, Ingrid Carlberg has carried out unprecedented research into all elements of Wallenberg's life, narrating with vigour and insight the story of a heroic life, and navigating with wisdom and sensitivity the truth about his disappearance and death.
You are a young neurosurgeon. You have completed 11 years of training. You are devoted to your work and on the brink of a wonderful career. Then you are diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.
One day you are a doctor making a living treating the dying, the next a patient dying, struggling to live. What makes a virtuous and meaningful life?
Paul Kalanithi believed that the answer lay in medicine's most demanding specialisation, neurosurgery. Here are patients at their life's most critical moment. Here he worked in the most critical place for human identity, the brain. What is it like to do that every day; and what happens when life is catastrophically interrupted?
When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable reflection on the practice of medicine and the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.
With a foreword by Dr Abraham Verghese and an epilogue by the author's wife, Lucy.
The story of a fascinating man who connected the great politicians, artists and thinkers at the height of British global power and influence.
A famed aesthete and patron, Philip Sassoon's world was one of luxury and classic English elegance with oriental flair. He gathered a social set that would provide inspiration for Brideshead Revisited. At his famous parties you might find Winston Churchill arguing over the tea cups with George Bernard Shaw, the Prince of Wales playing tennis with Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward mingling with flamingos and Lawrence of Arabia and Rex Whistler painting murals as the party carried on around him.
But Philip Sassoon was not just a wealthy aesthete. He worked at the right hand of Douglas Haig during the First World War and then for Prime Minister Lloyd George for the settlement of the peace. He was close to King Edward VIII during the abdication crisis, and Minister for the Air Force in the 1930s. And neither was he wholly 'English'. The heir of a family of wealthy Jewish traders from the souks of Baghdad, Philip craved acceptance from the English establishment, many of whom thought him both foreign and too exotic.
He opened his house to his friends but rarely his heart, and as he was almost certainly homosexual. In 'Glamour Boy', Damian Collins explores an extraordinary product of an age; a man who, before dying prematurely aged only 50, in June 1939, Noel Coward called a 'phenomenon that would never recur'.
On a beautiful, balmy evening in Cuba in 2007, David Hicks walked out of Guantanamo Bay, in that moment ceasing to be a detainee of the United States and regaining his rights as an Australian citizen.
Watching on was the man who had fought for four long years for Hicks's right to go home: Major Michael Mori. Having grown up as an all-American boy, Mori joined the US Marine Corps as an eighteen-year-old, determined to give his life order and to serve the country he held dear. After training and serving as a military lawyer, he accepted a position as a defence counsel for the military commissions set up in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And then David Hicks's case file landed on his desk.
A firm believer in the importance of due process, Mori grew increasingly alarmed by how the military and the US and Australian governments were handling the Hicks case, and others like it. Why was a distinction being made between 'unlawful combatants' and 'prisoners of war'? Why was the Australian government refusing to intervene for one of its people? And what specific crime - if any - had Hicks allegedly committed that deserved years of incarceration without trial?
What followed was a long struggle for justice, and one man's gradual disillusionment with the institution that he had signed up to fight for. Michael Mori rallied the support of the Australian people as he exposed an unfair system, changing the way we saw our government and the War on Terror.
The David vs Goliath story of the pathologist who discovered that America's favourite sport was killing its players. The brilliant young forensic pathologist had no idea that the body on the slab in front of him would change his life, and ultimately change the world. The body belonged to 53 year-old Mike Webster, a legendary American Footballer.
After retiring from the game Webster's mental health had rapidly declined - he ended up living out of his van, treating his back pain with a Taser and using Superglue to fix his rotting teeth. How did this happen? How did Mike Webster end up like this? Dr. Bennet Omalu wanted to know. Born in Nigeria against the brutal backdrop of Civil War, Omalu's move to America and training as a pathologist let him act as an advocate for the dead. He considered it his calling. The autopsy found that Webster's psychosis was no accident. Omalu unearthed groundbreaking evidence of a trauma-related disease - the inevitable consequence of years of head clashes in games. He knew that it would kill scores of other sportsmen unless something was done, and naively believed that the NFL would welcome the discovery.
Instead, America's most powerful corporation tried to destroy him and discredit his findings. Taut and gorgeously told, this is the intensely personal story of one man's fight against a multi billion dollar colossus. A man who stood up for what was right, whatever the cost.
While the world of political Islam continues to be dominated by acts of violence and a separatist agenda, there are signs of reform in the Arab Spring movement. Ayaan Hirsi Ali who has been at the forefront of the reform movement offers an analysis of what's happening and how it could happen faster.
Around the world cracks are starting to appear in the world of political Islam. While its leaders remain strong and defiant and while it continues to be characterized by separatism and an agenda of violence, a number of people have questioned its rigid stances - from Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai to Amina Tyler, the activist who posed nude on Facebook to make a point about women's bodies belonging to themselves. Beyond that, political movements across the Middle East - the 'Arab Spring' protests - show that a number of Muslims are increasingly fed up by what they see as a system which is too inflexible, often corrupt and which prevents countries from getting ahead. Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali has long been an outspoken critic of political Islam, specifically its treatment of women. In her books she's told her own story and how she escaped the bonds of a strict Muslim upbringing.
In this book she moves beyond the personal story to a more overtly political stance. While women remain her main concern she also addresses Islam's other problems - its emphasis on passivity, its hypocrisy about the modern world, its defensiveness when criticized. Analysing the embryonic protest movements from around the world, she asks what it would take to achieve a reformation - and how long it will take.
Joe and Rose Kennedy's strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the Queen of England, and travelled the world with her high-spirited sisters. And yet, Rosemary was intellectually disabled, a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family.
Major new sources - Rose Kennedy's diaries and correspondence, school and doctors' letters, and exclusive family interviews bring Rosemary alive as a girl adored but left far behind by her competitive siblings. Kate Larson reveals both the sensitive care Rose and Joe gave to Rosemary and then as the family's standing reached an apex, the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly intractable in her early twenties. Finally, Larson illuminates Joe's decision to have Rosemary Iobotomized at age twenty-three, and the family's complicity in keeping the secret. Rosemary delivers a profoundly moving coda: JFK visited Rosemary for the first time while campaigning in the Midwest; she had been living isolated in a Wisconsin institution for nearly twenty years.
Only then did the siblings understand what had happened to Rosemary and bring her home for loving family visits. It was a reckoning that inspired them to direct attention to the plight of the disabled, transforming the lives of millions.
Though less known today than contemporaries like Amundsen and Peary, Knud Rasmussen (1879–1933) was one of the most intriguing of the great early 20th century arctic explorers. Born and raised in Greenland, and part Inuit on his mother’s side, Rasmussen could shoot a gun and harness a team of sled dogs by the time he was eight.
Nevertheless he was well versed in the civilized arts and came to exploration after failing to make a career as an opera singer in Europe. He was obviously more at home on the ice floes than the stage, and undertook some of the most astounding feats of endurance in the annals of polar exploration including his record-setting 18,000-mile "Great Sled Journey" - the first to traverse the Northwest Passage by dogsled. More impressively, he traveled without the elaborate preparations and large support staffs employed by other explorers, surviving with only a few Inuit assistants and living off the land. He once explained his approach by saying, "[As a child] my playmates were native Greenlanders; from the earliest boyhood I played and worked with the hunters, so even the hardships of the most strenuous sledge-trips became pleasant routine for me."
Despite his extraordinary physical prowess, Rasmussen was one of the most intellectual of the great explorers, more interested in scientific study than glamorous feats, producing (among many other works) a ten-volume account documenting Inuit spirituality and culture, an accomplishment that earned him the title "the father of Eskimology."
In this first full-length biography, Stephen R. Bown brings Rasmussen’s inspiring story to English readers in all its richness, giving White Eskimo the readability of a good novel.
The marriage between Carl von Clausewitz and Countess Marie von Bruhl was a remarkable intellectual partnership. Many historians have noted the instrumental role Marie played in the creation, development, and particularly in the posthumous editing and publishing of Clausewitz's opus, On War, which remains the seminal text on military theory and strategic thinking. Highly intelligent and politically engaged, Marie was also deeply involved in her husband's military career and advancement, and in the nationalist politics of 19th-century Prussia.
Yet apart from peripheral consideration of her obvious influence on Clausewitz and on the preservation of his legacy, very little has been written about Marie herself. In Marie von Clausewitz, Vanya Eftimova Bellinger proposes to address this oversight, capitalizing on the recent discovery of a vast archive of material-including hundreds of previously unknown letters between Marie and Clausewitz-to produce the first complete biography of this understudied figure.
Delving into the private correspondence between the two, Bellinger shows how Marie, a highly educated woman of Prussia's upper echelon, broadened Clausewitz's understanding of the cultural and political processes of the time; provided him with insights into the practical side of daily politics; sharpened his writing style; and served as the catalyst for his ideas. The depth of her influence on and contribution to Clausewitz's theoretical writings, Bellinger argues, is greater than historians have previously suggested. Bellinger also establishes Marie as an impressive figure in her own right, both politically outspoken and socially adept at moving among the ranks of Prussian nobility.
The marriage between Marie, an intimate of the royal family, and Clausewitz, an obscure young lieutenant with dubious claims to nobility, allows Bellinger to engage in a broader discussion of gender and class relations in 19th-century Europe; and her study of their epistolary debates also sheds light on the political climate of the time, particularly incipient German nationalist fervor.