The Enigmatic Mr Deakin by Judith Brett (Text Publishing)
The Enigmatic Mr Deakin is a beautifully researched and satisfyingly rounded picture of an intriguing prime minister’s public and private lives, revealing just how intricately connected the two can be. It gives rare insight into the intellectual and emotional life of a political figure, aspects we seldom acknowledge in politicians today.
While Judith Brett finds much to admire in Alfred Deakin, she acknowledges that that he could be underhand and sharp-tongued, obtuse in his familial relationships, and sometimes simply wrong in his political judgements. Brett makes us stop and think, particularly about Deakin’s essential dilemma — whether to pursue an idealised and idealistic life of the mind or to follow his pragmatic sense of the possibilities of politics: ‘the chance to do limited good’. For Deakin, political theatre was much more than a metaphor; Brett shows how attuned he was to the stagecraft of politics, how he consciously played a character, and how he could also be his own best critic. He may have been a puzzle to many of his contemporaries, but thanks to Brett, Mr Deakin is no longer quite so enigmatic.