Life So Full Of Promise: Further biographies of Australia’s lost generation
Scribe, $49.99 pb, 640 pp
Just over a decade ago, Ross McMullin published Farewell, Dear People (2012), a magisterial biography of ten remarkable Australians killed in World War I. The book met with much acclaim, including the award of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History in 2013. Life So Full of Promise, a sequel to this volume, provides three more biographies of men whose early lives suggested that they would have made extraordinary contributions to Australian public life, had they survived the war.
In this book, McMullin adopts a similar approach: although the main focus is on the individual men, their stories are situated within detailed accounts of the families and communities from which they came. His aim is to highlight not just the ‘radiant but unfulfilled promise’ of these relatively unknown Australians, but also to illuminate what the war was like for Australians at home. It is clearly a labour of love, as McMullin pursues his ‘extraordinary and inspiring Australians’ through genealogies and military records, personal papers and newspapers, school and sporting archives. Its 562 pages of text provide a meticulously researched, detailed, and vivid evocation of the lives and deaths of these three men and of the worlds they occupied. These were parallel lives, but the men had more in common than the fact of their exceptional abilities and their wartime deaths. All three were keen and talented sportsmen, and much is made of the role that sport in general and cricket in particular played in their lives.