Book Review: Living The 1960s is an exuberant collection of facts & personal memories from a wonderful chapter in history

The National Library of Australia’s publishers have managed to turn back time with their latest book, Living The 1960s. In the book, Australian actress and comedian, Noeline Brown takes us all for a stroll down memory lane through an important decade in her life, and in the lives of her contemporaries. Living the 1960s is a fun slice of nostalgia and a gorgeous chronicle of this significant period from history.

At the start of the sixties Brown was working as a librarian in Sydney, so who better then to delve into the National Library’s archives and collection? Included here, are some 160 facsimiles of different photographs, posters and drawings taken during the sixties. The book is divided into chapters devoted to politics, sports, fashion, women, family, music and the arts. It is unsurprising that the latter category is covered given that Brown made a name for herself in the arts, despite the cultural cringe in Australia at the time. Brown is a beloved actress of the screen and stage, who appeared in shows like The Mavis Bramston Show and Blankety Blanks, to name a few.

Brown describes some of the events from the time in a factual way; there was the introduction of decimal currency, and the election result that saw Robert Menzies continue his run as Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister. There are also Brown’s own personal anecdotes and recollections, which read more like a conversation piece. One in particular, was about her being a snobbish, jazz aficionado who thought she was sophisticated while sipping cosmopolitans as the band, The Rolling Stones, imbibed a new drink called a bourbon and coke.

The food from this period was also flourishing and becoming more diverse and interesting thanks to the influx of migrants from Europe. Brown remembers finding a recipe for an exotic moussaka, and when the air around the neighbourhood began to fill with the aromas of rosemary and garlic from the new arrivals’ cooking efforts. The fashion was also changing through this time from the demure and elegant Coco Chanel-inspired women’s suits at the beginning of the decade to the arrival of the shift dress, mini-skirt and the long hair that was adopted by the hippies towards the end of the sixties.

This book proves that the sixties was a fabulous period to be alive; and Brown is one knowledgeable and colourful guide through it all. This book is an entertaining one, which captures the freewheeling spirit of the time and packages it in a way that is amusing and informative. There is a little something for everyone to enjoy here, even if you weren’t there to experience it the first time (or you are so old that you can’t remember it!) At the end of the day this book is further proof that those fun and halcyon times of the sixties are worthy of many chapters in our modern history books and luckily we have Brown on hand to take us there.

Living the 1960’s is available now through The National Library of Australia


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