Amanda Keller, the funny girl everyone loves, has changed little from the Barry Manilow-loving Carlingford High student — she is still a delightful, albeit beautiful, dag. And proud of it.
Her signature self-effacing humour that we enjoy on her Jonesy and Amanda WSFM morning radio program is on full-blown display in her recently released memoir Natural Born Keller – My Life and Other Palaver.
Keller has enjoyed a variety of gigs, showing both her serious and light-hearted styles, from Simon Townsend’s Wonder World through to Beyond 2000, the Midday Show, the Andrew Denton Show, Talkin’ ’Bout Your Generation, The Living Room, Dancing with the Stars and the top-rating radio show with her partner in prime time Brendan Jones.
On all her shows, it is her ordinariness and optimistic view of life that has stood Keller in good stead with her fans. And all of that shines through in her memoir, full of the highs and lows that ordinary Australians can relate to, even if her career success seems out of the realm of most people’s experience.
You certainly cannot begrudge Keller her success which, in many ways, has seemed so easy. Natural born talent, along with a reputation for hard work and an easygoing nature, has seen Keller shine.
But that is not to say she has not suffered in her personal life. The humour that wraps around her tales of the Manilow mania she shared with her lifelong friend Melanie is put to one side as she talks about her struggle to fall pregnant and her subsequently successful yet harrowing IVF treatments that saw her have her two beloved sons.
Keller values family life above all else, from her happy childhood with her loving parents and brother to her successful marriage to cameraman Harley. She took her mother’s death at the age of 70 pretty hard, and that was the most difficult part of the book for Keller to write.
If you are expecting a tell-all of show business stars you will be disappointed, for that is not Keller’s style. But most women could relate to some of her experiences with recalcitrant unwanted hair, bad perms, mad crushes and avoiding going barefoot near the toilet in a household of boys.
Some excerpts from her teenage diary will remind many of their own angst-ridden teen years:
“Wonder why I was born. There must be a purpose for me, otherwise why was I born out of everyone and everything? I might have been born a microbe, or an insect … isn’t that freaky?”
“I’ve just watched the American movie Jesus Christ Superstar. Whenever I watch something like that (the same happened in Chorus Line), I get all choked up and speechless because of the sheer emotion that comes from it. Carl Anderson was just fantastic as Judas. Mum tells me not to marry a negro, but if I want to I will. To me they always seem so much more sensitive.”
“I’d love to marry a sensitive guy. No other mortal could be as sensitive and moving as Elton John, he’s beautiful looking and he looks sensitive.”
“God I’m depressed. Melanie and I have been getting more and more involved with Barry Manilow. We feel as if we know him. He talks to you on the record and comes across as a deep, funny, sincere guy.”
My favourite parts were when Keller and Melanie not only get to see Manilow perform, but eventually get to meet him, and later Keller interviews him on her radio show. The crush endures, even when Keller finally twigs as to why Manilow has never married — it was not because he was waiting for her.
But Keller takes that disappointment well. After all, she has found her ideal man in Harley.
“I feel incredibly lucky that I found a good man who doesn’t mind that my waxing regime is intermittent,” Keller writes.
You see, this woman, with all her success, really does not ask for much. ☐
## When We Were Young and Foolish Greg Sheridan Allen&Unwin RRP $32.99
Journalist and political commentator Greg Sheridan has had an interesting life, but it could have been so different.
For this outspoken, politically strident man was very close to becoming a priest, despite clearly being a square peg in a round hole from the time he entered the seminary.
While politics and religion often go hand in hand and his Labor Right views were not discouraged, his bucking of authority would not have seen him become a happy priest. By the time this was pointed out to him by seminary authorities, Sheridan already had one foot out the door.
Nonetheless, for this vehement anti-communist, keeping his Catholic faith has been easier than maintaining his faith in the Labor Party, especially the Left. For a while, Sheridan, now Foreign Editor of The Australian, flirted with the Liberal Party but his heart was always Labor.
Along the way, in his early years, Sheridan became close friends with men who were to become leaders — even a Prime Minister or two. At university Tony Abbott was his best friend; he became close to Peter Costello as well as Labor figures Michael Danby and Michael Easson.
As a young journalist on The Bulletin he became friends and colleagues with Bob Carr and Malcolm Turnbull. When he first joined The Australian he was posted to China, there to befriend another future leader, Kevin Rudd.
When We Were Young and Foolish traces Sheridan’s determined and passionate journey from an underprivileged but emotionally rich childhood in Sydney’s inner west, to a world of clashing political fronts.
From Sheridan’s early years at a seminary, through political stoushes at university, the surprising period as a union organiser and heady intellectual times at The Bulletin, he also illuminates the formative years and experiences of his friends who would who go on to be prime ministers, premiers and senior cabinet ministers. It offers new and personal insights into the people they were as students and twenty-somethings, and the events, philosophies, demons and relationships that helped make them the people they are.
If you are interested in Australian politics, or how ordinary childhoods can shape interesting men and women, then this is the book for you. ☐
## The Lake House Kate Morton Allen&Unwin RRP $32.99
This is a gripping page-turner mystery by renowned crime mystery writer Kate Morton, who reels you in from the first page.
The story starts in 1933, in the Edevane’s country house in Cornwall, Loeanneth, all polished and gleaming in readiness for the much anticipated Midsummer Eve party.
Alice Edevane, 16 years old and a budding writer, is especially excited. Not only has she worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t have. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.
Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. She retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, Sadie stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.
Meanwhile, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape.
This is one of those books that I hold responsible for my untidy house. Who wants to do housework when there is such a gripping book to read?
Kate Morton grew up in the mountains of south-east Queensland, and lives now with her husband and three young sons in Brisbane. She has degrees in dramatic art and English literature, specialising in 19th-century tragedy and contemporary gothic novels.
Kate Morton has sold over 10 million copies in 33 languages, across 38 countries. The Shifting Fog, published internationally as The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours and The Secret Keeper have all been number one bestsellers around the world. ☐