Following her husband’s excellent autobiography of his early years, Mucking About (1977), Alexandra Hasluck’s own life story has been eagerly awaited. And it has been worth the wait. Portrait in a Mirror is one of only a handful of good autobiographies by Australian public figures. Its 322 pages are full of colour, with some excellent passages of prose, particularly her warm, evocative descriptions of the Australian countryside. Hers is essentially a feminine, empathetic view of the world.
It is mostly a superb piece of autobiographical writing. Alexandra gives a good deal of herself. The book begins with an interesting description of her forebears – her father’s family, the Darkers of Brisbane and her mother’s, the Hills of Perth. Then follow chapters on her girlhood trip to England, her schooldays in Perth, her years of study for a BA at the newly opened Perth University, her marriage to Paul Hasluck, a young journalist on the West Australian, their honeymoon in Europe, and her early married life, including several years in wartime Canberra.