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I’m impressed with the generosity of spirit that Julia Gillard possesses. The book is littered with the names of people to whom she gives thanks: for their enduring friendship, their casual mateship, their thoughtfulness, their support and love. What a rich life this woman has, if those she counts as friends is a guide.
And that in her official memoir encompassing her time as Prime Minister of Australia she unstintingly gives credit where she believes it’s due to her political opponents and enemies as well as the many people who sustained and continue to sustain her is generous indeed.
Generous also is her take on what is important in life: to make a difference to the lives of others through your own hard work.
Working class immigrants to Australia from Wales when Gillard was a child, her parents regretted their lack of education and the limits it placed on them. Education and hard work were inculcated into their two daughters. And Gillard has made bettering Australia’s education system her life’s work. The education sphere is where she headed immediately she left politics.
I’ve never read the memoirs of past prime ministers before. Never wanted to. But I felt the memoirs of the first female to hold that position warranted my attention. Having only read this one I don’t know if its structure follows a formula for PM memoirs. Whether it does or not it’s a good one. Rather than adopting a time sequential telling where the multiplicity of what was going on at any given time would overwhelm you, each chapter covers a different aspect of her prime ministership.
The first part chronicles the overall story. Subsequent chapters deal with individual areas such as defence, health, education, environment, tax, foreign policy. This approach makes it possible for the reader to grasp all that was done and accomplished. It makes clear the vast breadth and scope of what is expected of a country’s leader.
It’s also an intimate picture of what goes on behind the scenes. I suspect I’m no different to any other reader when I say it’s those candid moments and the humour that reveal and round out the woman.
At the end Gillard says ‘I hope my words inform, provoke, intrigue and amuse’. For me they did all of those. It was well worth the read.
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The author declined an interview to accompany this review.