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2018 - Shortlisted
Definitive door-stopper biographies of prime ministers can be tough-going. Troy Bramston’s Paul Keating: The Big-Picture Leader, however, is comprehensive but also eminently readable and revealing. Promising ‘a broadly favourable but not uncritical account’, Bramston takes the reader systematically through the public life of this charismatic, elusive and complex man. The clear, often chronological, narrative uses a strikingly wide range of sources, including extensive conversations with Keating himself. Bramston deftly deploys the revealing anecdote, the punchy sentence and the captivating quote.
Keating’s political successes and failures are covered incisively, and the differences between Keating and Hawke, not least their attempts to massage their legacy, are analysed effectively. Political allies and enemies were interviewed and their assessments taken into account. Paul Keating: The Big-Picture Leader reveals that music is the doorway to Keating’s inner life, and readers learn how that inner life has been sustained through art collecting and tender personal relationships. A vital source for future scholars, this is an impressive biography of a fascinating individual whose impact on the Australian political scene will be felt for generations.