I’ve had a review of Blanche D’Alpuget’s new book, Hawke: The Prime Minister, published at The Drum. You can read it here.
Hi Mark, just read your review at the Drum. I would have preferred to have read it first here where comments on it would almost certainly have been more informed, objective and less focussed on Hawke’s infidelity and disloyalty to Hazel. Yet I too deplore the diminishing of her by D’Alpuget which might be forgivable in a work which made no claim to objectivity, say in a memoir of her own relationship with Hawke. I also think though that no one really knows the full truth of a marriage. Still those of us with long memories remember back in the late eighties his public tears of regret for having been such a bad husband and his protestations of undying love for Hazel.
The almost complete lack of support for Hawke in the Drum comments does not surprise me though. My own take on Hawke is that the idea of the beloved larrikin and man of the people belongs to his earlier years in the trade union movement which carried over for many years in the popular imagination long after he stopped drinking. But the union movement and many in the ALP haven’t forgiven him for his more rightist policies when in government. And for all of his acknowledged consensus style I don’t recall him giving that much credit to others in his team, particularly Keating. You comment on this yourself as a feature of the book.
Once he was out of the Lodge and the facade of his marriage finally cracked he seemed to lack all gravitas. Any serious biographical work which D’Alpuget may want to write, which needn’t have been an impossibility, is overshadowed by their often tacky public display of their love story.
PS On gravitas – maybe Bob was never good at that. Or wanted to be. Didn’t he, like his Mum and Dad, once have an ‘educated Australian’ accent before he adopted his Ocker twang? Every time his response to the America’s Cup win is fondly recalled, I wince.
Reading this over it comes across a bit sour. But then I am a Keating fan.
@Patricia, it was a piece commissioned by The Drum. I actually wrote it on Sunday night, but there were a few glitches (my fault) with the timing of publication.
Ps – I’m not in the habit of reading comments at The Drum… I’d observe also, as I said in the review, there’s virtually nothing in the book itself about Hawke’s marriage and its breakdown – contrary to the impression given in the pre-publicity.
What is that line Blanche keeps reiterating in interviews about the book – ‘its the love story people will remember.’ Sounds like Mills and Boon meets political biography.
Mark, no suggestion of crititicism intended from me about placement of your article, just that comment for me would follow more naturally at its orginal site, but I didn’t like the trend there.
Re. little mention of the first marriage, that seems to me more about D’Alpuget’s need to brush over it, ignore its very existence were that possible, than to tactfully say little in order not to offend. Which really leaves a huge chunk out of ‘the life’ and its relationship with the Australian people. Once sober, with Hazel in the Lodge, he had an added dimension to his public persona which was important, quite apart from the 3% of the electorate he might have lost with a divorce. She was a substantial woman in her own right and made a great contribution with social issues, the arts and particularly music. I recall too her spirited support for choice on abortion.
I think this is more than a sin of ommission in this biography, rather one of commission, since it distorts the reality of that life.
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