Gough Whitlam: A moment in history (Volume One)
by Jenny Hocking
Miegunyah, $59.95 hb, 471 pp
Edward Gough Whitlam bestrode the Australian political stage like a colossus for over a generation: first as federal Opposition leader, then as prime minister, and finally as martyr. A legend in his own lifetime, this last role threatens to turn him into myth. More books have been written on aspects of his short and turbulent government than on any other in Australian history. There are already three biographies: a competent quickie by journalist Laurie Oakes in 1976; an eloquent political biography by his speechwriter Graham Freudenberg in 1977; and a psychobiography by the political scientist James Walter in 1980, which depicts Whitlam in terms of a particular personality type – the grandiose narcissist.
Jenny Hocking’s first volume on Whitlam’s life falls into three roughly equal parts: family and early life (1916–52); parliamentary apprenticeship (1952–67); and leader of the Opposition (1967–72). Or the book may be seen as consisting of two halves: the critical turning point being the sudden emergence of Whitlam as a major political figure with his unexpected election as deputy leader in March 1960.