BRILLIANT BOY: DOC EVATT AND THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN DISSENT
HV 'Doc' Evatt has long been obscured by Menzies's broad shadow, as the Labor Opposition Leader through the prosperous and complacent 1950s. In this book, one of our finest writers and sharpest minds shows Evatt in his true light: the most brilliant Australian of his day. Inspiring, cosmopolitan and humane, Evatt was the forerunner of Keating and Kirby, believing that Australia could be more than quiet and comfortable - it could be an example to the world of a compassionate, just, progressive society. An acclaimed advocate, champion of modern art and state member for Balmain in the NSW Parliament, in 1930 Evatt became Australia's youngest ever High Court judge, a regular dissenter from this arch conservative body as he tried to make the law responsive to the rapidly-changing modern world. Haigh traces one case in particular - that of the Chester family, who sued Waverley Council for the trauma of their young son's drowning in an unfenced ditch. Evatt's legal brilliance, intellectual independence and personal empathy combined in a judgement regarded as the finest of its era, arguing that people's inner lives were as valuable as their physical selves, and ought to be recognised as such by the law. The idea was far ahead of its time, but is now a fundamental legal principle. Evatt had been attuned to grief by losing two brothers in the First World War, which contributed both to his zest for life and his belief that the world should offer sanctuary to the afflicted. This conviction had long-lasting expression: as Australia's only ever President of the UN General Assembly, Evatt was instrumental in the establishment of Israel. There are not many of whom it might be said that leading their party in federal politics was a step down, but Evatt was such a figure. The Brilliant Boy is a feat of remarkable historical perception, deep research and masterful storytelling. It confirms Gideon Haigh as not only our finest cricket writer, but one of our best writers of non-fiction. In painting this bigger picture of our past, The Brilliant Boy allows us to think differently about our present and future.