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John Curtin: A Life/Day, David/Paper/0732280001/S030-A
Harper Collins Publishers
John Curtin has been lauded by many Australians, regardless of political affiliation, as the most significant Australian political leader of the twentieth century. In this remarkable biography, David Day traces the journey of Curtin from his peripatetic childhood in small-town Victoria to his courageous and dramatic leadership of the nation in the darkest hours of the Second World War.
For the first time, the full breadth of Curtin's life, with its myriad twists and turns, tragedies and triumphs, is revealed: the tortured and ruinous decline of his father; the untimely deaths of his first sweetheart and of his best friend; his rejection of Catholicism for socialism, trade unionism and, later, the Labor Party; the romantic disappointments and troubled relationship with his wife and family; the battles with depression, psoriasis and alcoholism; and the mental and physical exhaustion that finally destroyed him six weeks before the Japanese surrender in 1945.
Day also sheds light on the inherent contradictions of Curtin's personality: his sense of personal destiny, but lack of faith in himself; his commitment to the betterment of the nation, but inability to create peace and happiness in his own life; his early condemnation of parliament as an 'upholstered gas-works,' but ambition to get to Canberra; and his denunciation of war and jailing for anti-conscription activities in the First World War, but inspirational leadership in the Second World War. What emerges is a diptych-like portrait of a complex, brilliant man wounded by his personal failures and disappointments, but energised by his political and social achievements.
John Curtin: A Life is a timely reassessment of a man who did so much to shape Australia's destiny and whose impact on Australian politics, and the Australian character, is still felt today.