The Boy from Baradine is one of the latest Australian political memoirs to hit the shelves. Craig Emerson, a prominent minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments between 2007 and 2013, has some interesting stories to tell about life as a political adviser, a pragmatic supporter of the environment, and an ambitious Labor politician. Emerson comes across as genuine and down to earth. He appears not to have carried a grudge towards those who at times obstructed his political career. Indeed, one of the saddest implications of the book is the sense that political ambition tends to make political and personal friendships difficult to maintain.
The most intense sections of the book concern Emerson’s formative years. While the author goes to great lengths to acknowledge the bond he had with his hard-working mother and father, it is clear that Emerson’s childhood was often traumatic. His honesty is admirable, but at times readers may feel they are intruding on what are essentially private matters. Furthermore, the searing quality of the early chapters contrasts rather sharply with the rest of the book, which adopts a lightness of tone and presents Emerson as a man of action, not of deep reflection.