By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Hazel: My Motherís Story
By Sue Pieters-Hawke (Pan Macmillan, $49.99, hardcover, 470 pages)
This is a one-sided narrative, albeit told lovingly, by the eldest daughter of Bob and Hazel Hawke.
The tender portrait of the former wife of a former Australian prime minister examines Hazel’s life from girlhood in Perth to her relationship with Bob – “the love of her life” – her career in welfare, time in The Lodge, her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease in 2001 and much more.
It endeavours to set the record straight, as far as Sue Pieters-Hawke is concerned. She says at the outset: “I make no claims for balance in this account of her life”. It is, of course, “Hazelcentric”. This biography is much closer to hagiography than to objective analysis.
It’s not a surprise that neither Bob Hawke nor his second wife Blanche d’Alpuget (also there’s no photograph of her) were interviewed for the book; and the final chapter – titled My Mother, My Hero – speaks volumes.
Keeping these factors in mind, Hazel: My Mother’s Story, toldwith assistance from Hazel Flynn, presents some illuminating insights into the life of one of Australia’s most admired public figures.
Winning widespread approval was her down-to-earth approach as the prime minister’s wife, one who pushed for social inclusion and support for the disadvantaged and underprivileged, including indigenous Australians.
Supporting the arts community, passionately advocating her belief in equality and social inclusion or helping the disadvantaged also held her in good stead.
Since 2009, Hazel has been living in a care facility for dementia patients. Pieters-Hawke talks poignantly about Hazel, now 82, moving into the fog of dementia: “As we slowly and painfully lose her, I have had the privilege of spending a year immersed in her life, rediscovering the woman she was”.
In telling Hazel’s life story from this unique perspective, Pieters-Hawke has done her mother proud.
Edition 298, 31 January 2012
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.