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This insightful and accessible new biography of Alfred Deakin, Australia’s second prime minister, shines fresh light on one of the nation’s most significant figures. It brings out from behind the image of a worthy, bearded father of federation the gifted, passionate and intriguing man whose contributions continue to shape the contours of Australian politics.
The acclaimed political scientist Judith Brett scrutinises both Deakin’s public life and his inner life. Deakin’s private papers reveal a solitary, religious character who found distasteful much of the business of politics, with its unabashed self-interest, double-dealing, and mediocre intellectual levels. And yet politics is where Deakin chose to do his life’s work.
Destined to become a classic of biography, The Enigmatic Mr Deakin is a masterly portrait of a complex man who was instrumental in creating modern Australia.
Sydney Morning Herald (by Judith Brett)
Read Judith Brett on Turnbull and Deakin in the Conversation
Radio National Late Night Live
ABC The Conversation Hour (6:20:00)
ABC Radio Canberra, Breakfast
Sydney Morning Herald
ABC Brisbane, Mornings
‘A biography of immense power that will restore Deakin to his proper place in the national imagination: the mystic politician who gave us Australia.’
‘Judith Brett has resurrected a gallant democrat just when democracy seems most in need of redemption. This is a deeply engrossing portrait of a hero for our times, a complex, charismatic man with a unique capacity to build, to lead, to speak and to dream. Masterful, tender and utterly compelling.’
‘A fresh, revealing and insightful portrait of one of the great figures who shaped Australia.’
‘This excellent biography will appeal to general readers, students and anyone interested in historical biography.’
‘Truly one of the great political biographies of our time, a delicately nuanced, warm and insightful account.’
‘Brett is a gifted interpreter of politics, past and present, and a sensitive reader of people, individually and en masse. That she has been able to encompass The Enigmatic Mr Deakin in fewer than 500 pages, compared with double that of most “landmark” biographies, attests to a rare kind of writerly judgment: for discerning where the story lies and, crucially, for knowing what can be left out.’
‘Truly one of the great political biographies of our time, a delicately nuanced, warm and insightful account of—my personal misgiving aside—one of the most noteworthy political figures in Australian history.’
‘The Enigmatic Mr Deakin stands as the culmination of her work on the history, politics and philosophy of Australian liberals, and it is the one biography of Deakin to which we will repeatedly return. Brett’s writing is capable of extraordinary clarity, insight and compassion.’
‘This is a fine biography—accessible, perceptive, and in the best way, sympathetic. Deakin has found the interpreter he deserves for a modern audience…If our politicians still read books—and sometimes one does wonder—Judith Brett’s new biography should be required reading.’
‘A significant contribution to biography and political history that is beautifully written and full of interest.’
‘Impressive…Brett displays an acute understanding of the intricacies of parliament and the political and policy issues of Deakin’s time…The Enigmatic Mr Deakin has a lively prose style that shows a deep understanding of its perplexing subject. It is a fine book, and especially timely given the depressing state of modern politics.’