1956 by Nick Richardson [6/10]

I was born in 1955 and my Estonian mother, a post-war “boat person,” had the fondest memories of the 1956 Olympic Games in our city of Melbourne. My parents admired Vladimir Kuts (giving me the impression he was Estonian, but no, he was Ukrainian!) who took two athletic Golds. The Games are a narrative centrepiece of the splendid “1956: The Year Australia Welcomed The World” by journalist Nick Richardson. Another fulcrum of Richardson’s tale of the year Australia turned its gaze outwards, prime minister Robert Menzies, was adored by my parents. So I thoroughly enjoyed this multifaceted history, which weaves together the Games triumph with Menzies’ clumsy global politicking, a cultural awakening with Barry Humphries and others, the British atomic tests, and much more. Richardson is a smooth stylist in full charge of his material, which he navigates through the use of various characters, most major, some minor. Compared to the late 1960s, this period, both for Australia and for me, recalls slow shifts rather than revolutions, but 1956 manages to deepen and enrich our understanding of a decade that still lingers in Australia’s psyche. Recommended.

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