This biography of Germaine Greer traces the personal and political history of one of the most important, radical, and controversial women of twentieth and twenty-first-century feminism. It reveals how her public persona has shifted with time from sixties trailblazer to present-day rabble-rouser, and why her legacy deserves to be reexamined.
Kleinhenz's fine biography is the first major work drawing on the archive to appear in print ... Kleinhenz's approach is as imaginative as it is conventionally linear ... a well-rounded, sympathetic portrait of a remarkable human being, in a narrative that grips from the start. [Kleinhenz] shows how the contradictions that can infuriate us are the flip side of Greer's ever-questing mind, how for all the strength of her scholarship, Greer's preferred method is to throw out ideas to be tested rather than sustain a coherently structured argument ... readers will make up their own minds after finishing Kleinhenz's offering. I'm in no position to predict how Greer will respond to this newly unauthorised account of her life, but I found it utterly fascinating.
While detailed enough to lend vividness to the story, Kleinhenz’s treatment avoids what is probably the biggest danger for such biographies: a suffocating and gratuitous examination of the minutiae of the subject’s life. She has written a page-turner, though not by means of cheap sensationalism ... Kleinhenz’s tone is respectful, even affectionate towards the woman who, she writes, 'changed my life and the lives of millions across the world in the middle years of the twentieth century' ... While Kleinhenz is correct to see Greer’s contribution to second-wave feminism as that of a populariser unafraid to 'challenge the challenger', we may take issue both with the nature of the challenge and with the version of feminism Greer has popularised. Kleinhenz acknowledges the criticisms and leaves the reader to decide what to make of it all. The Greer that emerges is a complex character whose powers of insight and invention are consistently confounded by her enthusiasm for controversy. Kleinhenz’s achievement is to have produced a sympathetic, thoroughly readable portrayal of an ultimately unsympathetic figure.
A terrific book — even-handed and entertaining ... richly human and intellectually lucid, uncontaminated by cheap psychology. She lays bare Greer’s personal flaws, cruelties and venomous tongue, but her quiet triumph is to balance them with the majestic achievements. Kleinhenz comes to the conclusion that Greer is a genius: unique, prescient, with an extraordinary intellect and energy. And if she’s a bit mad, well, that too is a hallmark of genius. Best of all, Kleinhenz suggests, she showed women how to escape the curse of being nice.