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Rather His Own Man by Geoffrey Robertson

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PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN BOOKS
REVIEW BY IAN WILLIAMS

This is a witty, enjoyable journey through the life of an Australian who many got to know as the striding, hand-wringing, plummy voiced host of serious television’s Hypotheticals.

Geoffrey Robertson AO QC details his early years in Menzies era Sydney, rejecting his parents’ offer for an education at Sydney Grammar and choosing the local high school instead. It's a decision that served him well but saw him endure some early snobbish derision at Sydney University and later at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

But Robertson carved a place for himself at the Old Bailey as an Australian barrister who had chosen to practise his craft in the UK. Like other expatriates Clive James and Barry Humphries, Robertson became equally at home in Britain or his native Australia: “.....a dual citizen whose prostate is felt in Harley Street in London and whose teeth are fixed in Sydney’s Macquarie Street. (If you have seen an Englishman smile, you will understand.)”

The book’s title was drawn from a Sir Humphrey-like comment by a senior British public servant when a Blair government minister intended to appoint Robertson to a European judicial position. "What a brilliant idea, Minister … But … he is … rather his own man, isn't he?” Robertson got the irony but unfortunately not the job.

And there are plenty of acerbic comments such as “the last time I was invited to a box at Lords, I had Jeffrey Archer with his bad breath on one side and George Pell with his bad conscience…on the other.”

He writes with wit as he progresses from taking briefs to appear at the Old Bailey progressing to take up battles for human rights across the globe.

Although some of the descriptions of rich and famous encounters Robertson details were reminiscent of a teenager gloating over their collection of  autographed CDs, it reflected the circles he moved in.

On a personal level, he writes honestly about his girlfriends – women as disparate as Jennifer Byrne, Nigella Lawson and writer Kathy Lette, whom he married in 1990 (currently they are separated).

What a life Robertson has had so far – one hopes there’s more to come.

 

Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.