Writing an entertaining book about all of Australia’s prime ministers is an ambitious task, but one that political writer Mungo MacCallum pulls off brilliantly—this book is packed with all the charm, wit and expert knowledge readers have come to expect from MacCallum’s writing. The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely offers a brief chapter on Australia’s 27 prime ministers, from Edmund Barton, nicknamed ‘Tosspot Toby’ because of his fondness for a drink, who dedicated his political career to Australian federation and became the nation’s first prime minister; to Billy Hughes and Joseph Lyons, remembered as ‘the great Labor rats’; Robert Menzies, our longest serving PM who was ‘British to the bootstraps’ and once attempted to have Australia’s decimal currency renamed the Royal in honour of the royal family; Francis Forde, who managed just eight days in office; Bob Hawke, ‘the hard-drinking larrikin’ who ‘surpassed all expectations’; and our current PM Julia Gillard, the first woman to take on the job. While politics junkies will love this book for its amusing anecdotes and careful analysis, The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely will also be a valuable resource for students and those wishing to improve their trivia skills.
Eloise Keating is a journalist with the Weekly Book Newsletter and Bookseller+Publisher. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.