Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Review: Born to Rule by Paddy Manning

Greetings from steamy Brisvegas! Christmas is just around the corner and I am in denial when it comes to writing cards and buying presents.  What do I do when I’m in denial?  I read. 

Speaking of presents, you could do worse than buy a couple of copies of Born to Rule by Paddy Manning for all those “difficult-to-buy-for” friends and relations who like to bury themselves in a good book whilst trying to digest their Christmas dinner. It was published in late October this year so is still relatively hot off the press.

I leaped at the chance to read another political biography.  The last one I read was probably The Making of Julia Gillard.  I found it fascinating back in 2010 which is such a long time ago, in political terms.  We joke in Australia that it is unfair to ask a newbie to our country or a patient in the Emergency Dept “Who is the Prime Minister?” After all, we’ve had quite a few in the past five years – four to be precise.  Like Julia Gillard, Malcolm Turnbull was not elected by popular vote.  How long will he last, I wonder? 

 This ABC online article asserts there have been no less than 11 Prime Ministers who came to office other than by popular vote.  Malcolm Turnbull is Australia’s 29th Prime Minister.  That’s an average of one in three or even less, yes?  And yet we all get in a bit of a bother about it, as if it is something extraordinary.

I feel obliged to note that this is an un-authorised biography.  Is that a good or a bad thing? I wonder to myself.   I feel slightly naughty reading it.  After all, it might not be true. But, in this day and age of the internet, what does “authorised” mean???  Does it make it any less authentic?  Or does it just mean that Mr Turnbull hasn’t put his imprimatur on it?  And does that matter?  At any rate, I haven’t heard of Paddy Manning being sued yet, so it mustn’t be too bad.  Or maybe Mr Turnbull is a bit too busy running the country to be bothered about such things.  Good.

Yes, of course, I am being facetious.  And yes, this is important to read, don’t you think?  Don’t you want to know who is running the country?  I do. 

Some may find Manning’s structure rather old-fashioned.  It’s very linear for a start.  For an old fashioned girl like me, this is sheer bliss.  Non-linear stories are great for fiction when you are trying to obfuscate the reader (readers are so damn sophisticated these days) but for a country bumpkin like me, who has given up on reading newspapers and nowadays seems to get her news from Facebook (which is appalling but no more appalling than most of this country’s press), this was a refreshing digest of all the significant issues/battles that Turnbull has faced over the years.  There was even a bit of family history thrown in at the beginning which really made my day.  If I think about it I am sure my ancestors came out on the Coromandel too…six degrees of separation and all that.  At any rate, the author's style is rather engrossing and I found that I had polished off the book in a matter of days.

Manning’s credits are exemplary.  He obtained first class Honours in History at Sydney University and has written for, the ABC, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald.  The book is well sourced and there are over twenty pages of notes for those that want to check them.  The acknowledgements in the Malcolm and Me chapter are well worth reading, particularly the reference to Sydney Grammar Archives which provided this reader with a good giggle if not some consternation. 

In closing, I am ashamed to admit how little I knew about Malcolm Turnbull and his many varied careers, causes and contacts over the years.  I shall watch his future with great interest.  Not to mention, that of Paddy Manning.  My thanks again to NetGalley and the Publisher, Melbourne University Publishing for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

No comments: