BOOK REVIEW: The Sex Lives of Australians: A History (Frank Bongiorno, Black Inc.)

Frank Bongiorno’s The Sex Lives of Australians: A History is an important and fascinating account of Australia’s past through the lens of sex. With the kind of minute detail and first-hand accounts that bring to life an era and its people, Bongiorno draws his reader into the tangled sexual web of our history as colonisers and colonised, gold diggers, immigrants, bushrangers, overseas troops, homosexuals, feminists, victims of disease and sexual legislators. Bongiorno’s writing style is engaging, openminded and humorous. He shows great insight into the ideologies and politics of each of the time periods he examines, from the concerns over perceived rampant sodomy during transportation, to present-day ‘left-wing intellectuals concerned about unrestrained capitalism making common cause with moral conservatives worried about widespread sexual immorality and disorder’. His sources are well chosen for their entertainment value but Bongiorno has clearly also invested a great deal of research and time into making this history so accessible. This is a fascinating, unique book that will be enjoyed by a broad range of nonfiction fans.

Kate Sunners is a social sciences student at the University of Queensland. She is also a creative writing graduate and ex-bookseller. This review first appeared in the April/May issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

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