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2017 - Shortlisted
Doc Evatt’s name — like Menzies or Mannix — conjures a turbulent and passionate era of Australian history, the details of which are now perhaps muted by the passage of time. His legal career, the role he played in looking after Australian interests during the Second World War, his influence in the crucial first years of the United Nations, his Labor leadership years, the dramas of the Petrov affair — it is revelatory to read about all this through this beautifully written, judiciously researched, measured and generous biography. John Murphy creates a portrait of an exceptional man whose flaws were part of his brilliance. He draws the boy Evatt delicately but clearly, and shows the young man who came to believe, to his eventual detriment, that the law was infallible. Evatt’s final years are described with admirable restraint, but the story is nonetheless memorable and moving. Nothing is related without documentary support, and yet the biographer’s circumspection gently enlivens the text as we are invited to understand this formidable personality. Murphy puts not a step wrong in this superb and important life story.