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The Enigmatic Mr Deakin by Judith Brett (Text Publishing)
Alfred Deakin is one of the most significant figures in Australian political history, one of the instigators of a federation of the separate British colonies in the Southern Hemisphere (including New Zealand, until they withdrew), and the second Prime Minister of the newly federated nation. Yet he was also a complex and contradictory man, an intensely religious person who believed in spiritualism and attended seances, a politician who did not like politics, an orator with the skills of an actor.
Judith Brett has produced a major work in the tradition of large-scale Australian political biographies, bringing a fresh eye and a historian’s authority to a well-recorded life. This is not hagiography. The author is unflinching in her analysis of Deakin’s devious politics and frequently grubby finances. Yet he emerges as a giant. The Enigmatic Mr Deakin is a beautifully organised biography with a strong narrative drive and a finely judged perspective of what mattered in those chaotic, ever-shifting political times.