Tall, handsome, bookish

Judith Brett’s The Enigmatic Mr Deakin (Text) is a biography of our second prime minister, one of the founding fathers who should perhaps be more prominent in our cultural consciousness. Deakin was a tall, handsome Melburnian, an intelligent chatterbox who charmed most people he came across, and one of our greatest orators – often extemporary. But he humbly rode his bike to his prime ministerial office, was daydreamily bookish and prone to despondency. He was deeply spiritual, hungering for God’s guiding presence in his life, seeking ethical outlets for his faith, but also caught up in the fad of the times, spiritualism, attending séances and consulting fortune tellers. With Edmund Barton, he was instrumental in the federation of Australia, and this book is a window into a time of growth and democratisation, of shifting allegiances towards the common benefit of nationhood.


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