Freda: A Biography of Freda Whitlam by Noelene Martin
Length: 319 p
Fav lines: For moments like this, I always kept a supply of books that I had read before on hand. They included dome children’s books, but all were books I had previously enjoyed. I knew when I read them again, they would lift my spirits. p267
Freda has lived an amazing life and not just because she was the sister of the Prime Minister of Australia, although she did enjoy some perks that went with that relationship. She studied at Yale, spent missionary-time in France, was the principal of PLC Croydon for 19 years, and was a leading light the Uniting Church. She speaks at least for languages, has multiple degrees including an honorary doctorate from the university she helped establish – UWS.
She has had great highs – travelling the world, meeting important people Indira Ghandi for example and great lows usually at the hands of the unscrupulous or the petty-minded. Some of the lows she’ brought on herself but equally she can claim to having made the highs happen too for if nothing else Freda is an independent woman.
Knowing all of this make me feel a voyeuristic because Freda goes to my church and sits on several committees with me. Like many who meet her I’ve at times been a bit intimidated by her intelligence and position. At other times I’ve been angered by her handling of certain situations and then again I’ve rejoiced at having her in our midst because she is wise and clever and willing to lead. But now all of these responses fall into place because, after reading this book, I feel I know her a little better (or a little too much).
Not being a fan of the genre It’s hard to judge how this book sits within the context of biography. I know the author too and while I think Noelene did a great job capturing Freda ‘warts and all’ I think her editor let her down. Maybe I have expectations too high in this day and age of texting and general mutilation of the language but the syntax is just too lax, there’s some typos and there’s some jarring subject leaps that detract from the overall cohesiveness. This is a pity because Freda’s story is an interesting one…from the jacket blurb ‘she has been a leader in education and the Church, a leader of women and a force to be reckoned with in Western Sydney…pithy, witty, intimidating, sometimes eccentric’ Freda will inspire you so I’d recommend this if you like biographies and are not too much of a pedant about the writing.