Mrs Hawke's candid account of life with Australia's second-longest serving prime minister appears anything but sanitised. My Own Life, to be published next month, pre-empts the planned memoirs of Mr Hawke, who was ousted as Labor Party leader 10 months ago by Paul Keating after almost nine years as prime minister. In the past year, Mrs Hawke, 63, has seen her husband pushed from power and has suffered the personal drama of three operations, for an ovarian cyst, removal of a brain tumour and a build-up of spinal fluid.
Even before these traumas, many Australians regarded her as Mr Hawke's greatest asset. While her husband wept publicly as prime minister, confessing to his daughter's heroin addiction and his own earlier marital infidelities, Mrs Hawke remained stoic and dignified.
Her book, extracts of which appear in Who Weekly, an Australian magazine, tells the story of a passionate romance and marriage in the early 1950s, in which she was expected to take second place to her husband's ambitions, but which later left her lonely, isolated, disillusioned and struggling with drink herself as his quest for power proceeded.
She first noticed Bob Hawke in 1948, when they were both 18, at a church camp. He later proposed, but they were unable to marry straight away because he had applied for a Rhodes Scholarship, for which he had to be single. She discovered she was pregnant and sought an illegal abortion. 'I emptied my bank account and during my lunch hour walked two city blocks from the office to a mystery man. Goodbye innocence and modesty] . . . I had no idea what he had done; now I believe that it was a saline injection into my uterus.'