Title: With My Little Eye
Author: Sandra Hogan
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release: February 2021
Over a decade ago, Sue-Ellen Doherty connected with Sandra Hogan to assist her in publishing the story of her youth. The product of their collaboration is With My Little Eye—a novel that recalls the true story of the Doherty children.
Before they could talk, Mark, Amanda, and Sue-Ellen were taught by their parents to learn car number plates, note strange behaviours, and avoid drawing attention to themselves. The children grew to become unwitting foot soldiers in Australia’s battle against Soviet infiltration in the Cold War. They each attended political rallies, watched houses owned by communist sympathisers, and insinuated themselves into the UFO Society.
Comprised of assignations, hidden cameras, gangsters, Soviet defectors, and informants—With My Little Eye blurs the boundary between the mundane suburbia we all know and the exceptional spy narrative most of us don’t.
This novel is multifaceted, not only in its content but also in its mode of delivery. The text has two distinct parts: The Children and Sue-Ellen. Both parts contain several chapters, some interrupted by photographs and italicised paragraphs, that collaboratively validate this unbelievable tale of children, spies and secrets.
What moved me the most was the novel’s explanation of the lasting impact of secrets. In the prologue, Hogan writes, ‘When Sue-Ellen told me about the night it happened, she was nearly sixty. It was the first time she had ever told the story—not just to a journalist, but to anyone. She looked surprised to hear the words coming out of her mouth’. Being sworn to secrecy for a lifetime is difficult to comprehend. While most of us won’t experience confidentiality in that capacity,Sue Ellen’s story highlights the considerable repercussions of secret-keeping.
Sandra Hogan’s With My Little Eye is an incredible read. It is critical but hilarious, apparently simple but deeply complicated. I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this biography—you won’t be disappointed by this true story of spies living in the Australian suburbs.