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Member Reviews

Grantlee Kieza’s book Lawson, is a thoroughly researched and referenced biography of the well-known and celebrated Australian writer and balladist / poet, Henry Lawson. Kieza’s book is an extensive narrative which begins by introducing us to Lawson’s family story and personal circumstances, which were a crucial influence on Lawson’s life and writing. The book progresses to follow the evolution of Henry’s life from a young boy growing up in the bush with warring parents on a worthless farm, to a shy, partially deaf, self-conscious, fragile man, filled with self-doubt and a penchant for alcohol. Grantlee’s exhaustive study of Henry Lawson uncovers a complex character whose inadequacies and troubled life belie, but, in many ways explain, the beautifully descriptive and captivating writing for which he is known. It was said of Lawson that he put his whole soul into his writing, and it is clear from Kieza’s meticulous portrait that Lawson was a deep thinker who wrote from the heart, and from what he knew. He championed the underdog, the working-class battler, and produced writing that was very relatable to ordinary Australians. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and learned more than I expected to. While exploring Lawson’s life Kieza has provided research which documents an impressive array of contextual information about Australian history. The material about Lawson’s mother Louisa’s work as a newspaper proprietor and suffragist was fascinating. The background history of the Bulletin magazine, the republican movement, Lawson’s interest in socialism, as well as the details about the shearers strike were relevant and illuminating. This in-depth chronicle of the life and times of Henry Lawson has given me a greater respect and appreciation for his incredible writing and encouraged me to re-visit his work. 

I would highly recommend Grantlee Kieza’s book Lawson.

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers Australia for an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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This is quite a long book which I have been reading over a period of time as it isn't something I picked up and couldn't put down again.  That is not to say it isn't interesting as it is an interesting story that brings to life the whole story of Henry Lawson and where he came from and where he ended up!

A very good read that lets you understand how life created the poet we all know and love.  He had a hard life but he was able to tell his stories in his writing and this book just brought that all together and made you realise this was a real person with real problems yet he wrote with great poise.

A great book, a great understanding and although quite long it is worth the read.
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‘The life and times of Henry Lawson.’

I confess to knowing very little about Henry Lawson before reading this book. Sure, I have read ‘The Drover’s Wife and a few other pieces, and vaguely knew that he had written pieces published in The Bulletin. But I knew nothing about the man himself.

Henry Lawson (1867-1922), short story writer and balladist, was born on 17 June 1867 at Grenfell, New South Wales. He was the eldest of four surviving children of Niels Hertzberg (Peter) Larsen, Norwegian-born miner, and his wife Louisa, née Albury. Peter and Louisa were married in 1866 and changed their surname when registering Henry’s birth. Henry Lawson died on 2 September 1922 in Abbotsford, New South Wales.

Mr Kieza writes of Henry Lawson’s upbringing by unhappy parents, of the bullying he faced, his minimal education and of his deafness. But this shy man was clearly perceptive, able to capture the aspirations and struggles of the ordinary Australians around him. His short stories and poems reflect this. Sadly, Henry Lawson was a deeply troubled and self-destructive man. An unsuccessful marriage, emotional highs and lows fuelled by an addiction to alcohol all took a toll on his health, his relationships, and the quality of his writing. 

I finished this biography, resolving to read more of Henry Lawson’s work, especially his short stories.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Henry Lawson: Australia’s ‘People’s Poet’.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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The great 'People's Poet' and writer of short stories which have been compared to Chekhov's led a drama-packed life in which his travels ranged from Outback Australia to New Zealand and England. He also met many famous figures in Australian history, including Banjo Patterson, Mary Gilmore and Jack Lang. It was an almost unremittingly miserable life, though, and as I read the book, I couldn't help wondering what poor Henry would have to endure next!

The lanky, deaf child had a tough childhood in the 'bush' in which he was troubled by his parent's unhappy marriage, a meagre education and bullying at school. His mother was more interested in writing and women's rights than bringing up children and his father, a hard-working Norwegian, could never please her, and didn't share her intellectual interests. Even though Henry eventually became very successful with his highly-praised writing, in which he told the stories of the 'battler's and their long-suffering wives, he went from job to job carriage-painting, even travelling to Western Australia and NZ in search of work. At one stage, he and a friend walked for miles in the outback to find stories.

Henry had several problems to face - heavy drinking, an unhappy marriage, lack of money. Although he was likeable and generous, there are conflicting stories about his marriage, and just why it was so unhappy. He and the much younger Bertha were certainly unsuited. 

This is a dramatic story about a huge life. Grantlee Kieza pays the great Australian writer a fitting tribute in this excellent book.

I received this free ebook fromNetGalley in return for an honest review.
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