By Tim BonyhadyNon-fiction Allen & Unwin
Good Living Street: The Fortunes of My Viennese Family
In this beguiling family memoir, Tim Bonyhday traces the lives of three generations of women in his family, who arrived in Australia as refugees in 1938. He deftly weaves their personal stories with the wider significance of their place in a tumultuous Europe on the brink of collapse, and their significance as patrons of the arts in high society Vienna.
We follow them from the cultured opulence of Vienna, where they mixed with Mahler and Klimt, among other luminaries, to a small harbourside flat in Sydney, crowded with the relics of the best private art and design collection to escape Nazi Austria.
Good Living Street is an intriguingly multi-layered work, informed by the author’s passionate engagement with his family’s art collection and his research into not just his own family, but their wider milieu in the first half of 20th-century Vienna – and how their expulsion from that world would change it, and them, forever.
In this family memoir, art historian Tim Bonyhady takes as his lodestone the possessions, among them a portrait by Klimt, which linked life in Hapsburg Vienna with Australia, the family’s home in exile. Good Living Street illuminates three generations of women and the worlds – cultural, domestic, religious – they navigated during the long prelude to the European catastrophe and in its aftermath. Bonyhady perfectly balances light and shade, the beauty of art and the shallowness of blind devotion to it, the height of culture and the depths of inhumanity. A vivid book populated by luminous characters.
Good Living Street is family history at its finest: fascinating, memorable, and a fabulous read. Following the fortunes of three generations of women in his family - his mother Anne (formerly Annelore), grandmother Gretl, and great-grandmother Hermine - Tim Bonyhady tells a story that is generous in its scope, while grounded by the astounding fact that his grandmother and great aunt brought with them to Australia the best collection of art to escape Nazi Austria. This collection has since become the National Gallery of Victoria’s Gallia collection, which forms a considerable portion of the current Vienna Art and Design exhibition.
Like all good memoirs, Good Living Street firmly plants the reader in the world of its subjects, and makes the history and art of the time it evokes come alive. Bonyhady provides an eloquent history of his family, while providing the reader with fascinating and accessible insights into 20th-century European history and the history of the treatment of Jews in Europe up to and including the devastation of the Second World War.
Reading Good Living Street made me feel like I was coming to know these three fascinating, ordinary yet extraordinary women. The warmth of Bonyhady’s narrative, combined with his appealing lack of sentimentality as a storyteller, make Good Living Street a special contribution to the family memoir genre.
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