Review: Wednesdays with Bob by Derek Rielly

James Arbuthnott

From his balcony overlooking Sydney Harbour, Hawke sits down with Rielly to talk love, politics, friends, foes, and death.
Review: Wednesdays with Bob by Derek Rielly

Wednesdays with Bob by Derek Rielly and Bob Hawke. Published by Macmillan Australia.

Bob Hawke has been written about in books and in the press since 1969, when he began his political career as the larrikin president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. After a decade at the ACTU, the Oxford Rhodes Scholar went on to become Labor’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

Now in the ‘winter’ of his life, Hawke sits down with journalist Derek Rielly to discuss politics, love, infidelity, global warming, friends, foes, and death. Setting the stage from his balcony overlooking Sydney Harbour, the rockstar politician invites Rielly into his home to smoke fine cigars and see what else can be written about Australia’s most adored prime minister.

Rielly candidly interviews Hawke and his peers – a bold decision considering the imbalance of achievements between the subject and the author: Hawke, whose memorable career needs no introduction, and Rielly; a surf journalist and founder of STAB magazine.

The dialogue and first-person narrative of the interviewer finds its way into the office of John Howard, one of only two PMs to serve longer than Hawke. Howard, who was also overturned by the ‘regicide’ of his own party, has fought and admired Hawke for years. Both Howard and Hawke show more class than to outright blaspheme their opponents – a personality trait they say is lost in today’s identity politics.

Hawke’s feet are no longer taking orders, and he’s equipped with a pacemaker and hearing aid. But he’s still of sound mind thanks to sudoku and cryptic crosswords. He also quit drinking, thanks to his award-winning writer and wife, Blanche d'Alpuget.

Wednesdays with Bob reveals the prolific, record-breaking drinker that is Bob Hawke, and that he wasn’t always good at what he does. A university peers says, ‘After two glasses of beer he would be whacked or throwing up in a way I’ve never seen before – it was an incredible cacophony, you’d think the whole world, including his feet, was coming up. But Bob was determined to improve as a drinker, as he was determined to improve at everything he did'.

He still enters the spotlight occasionally for special events such as this book, which reveals Bob’s cavalier love for Australia.

His message now is global warming: ‘We live at an absolutely unique point in human history… we can lift the standard and quality of life for every human being on this planet… [or] we can destroy life on this planet as we know it'.

Rating: 3 stars ★★★
Wednesdays with Bob
By Derek Rielly and Bob Hawke

ISBN: 9781760554262
Format: Hardback
Pub Date: 28/11/2017
Category: Biography & True Stories / Biography: historical, political & military
Imprint: Macmillan Australia
Pages: 312
Price: $29.99

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

James Arbuthnott is a Melbourne journalist and book reviewer at Arts Hub Australia. Twitter: @we_forgot