From one of the most senior correspondents in the Canberra Press Gallery comes a rare account of life as a political insider. Born in a small village in Cyprus, Niki Savva spent her childhood in MelbourneOCOs working-class suburbs OCo frontiers where locals were suspicious of olive oil, and Greek kids spoke Gringlish to their parents. Only a few decades later, despite all the challenges of being a migrant woman in Australia, Savva had risen through the ranks of political journalism at The Australian, and had gone on to head the Canberra bureaus of both the Melbourne Herald Sun and The Age. Then in 1997, family tragedy struck, and she was forced to reassess her career. In spite of her own Labor convictions, she became Liberal treasurer Peter CostelloOCOs press secretary, a role that she kept for six years before moving on to join John HowardOCOs staff. This is one of the few books about Australian political life written by an insider with decades of exposure to its major players. Hilarious, moving, and endlessly fascinating, SavvaOCOs is a story that moves between countries, cultures, careers and, ultimately, political convictions."
So Greek (2010) is Niki Savva's autobiography. She writes about growing up the child of barely literate Cypriot parents, moving to Australia, becoming a journalist, her families travails and her time as press secretary for Peter Costello and then being on John Howard's staff. There is some real interest in her story. She has done incredibly well and shows just how well Australia recognizes and utilizes immigrant's talents. Her story of being a journalist has some good anecdotes and is also interesting. Her insights into how the press gallery is, by nature, fairly left wing are interesting. Finally her time working for senior Liberals also has some good stories. The book is well worth a read for anyone interested in Australian politics.
I had liked The Road to Ruin and Bulldozed, less so Plots and Prayers. In the latter,she got hung up on personalities, especially Malcolm Turnbull. We see why in So Greek, where she is vicious about Turnbull in his first phase as leader of the Coalition. The book starts with her life as a daughter of Greek Cypriot migrants, who were strongly left wing, and she is hilarious in recounting experiences of migrants. She expresses her political views as left wing and nearly her friends were. Towards the end of the book she writes: “The coalition didn’t get everything right, but in the areas of economic management and providing help for families, it succeeded handsomely. The rich might have got rich but the poor certainly didn’t get poorer.” She is full of praise for Howard … and she a leftie? That explains the way she works: opportunistically and what she thinks of personalities rather than what that principles they stand for. She doesn’t blame Howard for smashing the public service, children overboard, admittedly not too happy about the Iraq war, climate change activism infuriated her, high praise for Abbott but before he became prime minister (she rectifies that in Road to Ruin), she describes Dan Tehan, Josh Frydenberg and Alan Tudge as “good candidates” from Victoria. In short and throughout the book she dwells on people: good for Coalition, bad for almost all Labor especially Rudd, mixed over Gillard (but joining in the criticisms of her choice of clothes), while the Greens get few mentions, all of them sarcastic and nasty. She promotes herself saying several times to the effect that “if only he had listened to me he would have avoided that catastrophe.” She has high praise for Costello with whom she worked for years, brought down only for his sensitive ego and hesitancy – and for not listening to her. There is too much gossip and scuttlebutt. The book has been well reviewed but I found it irritating, not only because of obvious bias but more because she is inconsistent as foreshadowed in the title: “a conservative leftie.” She seems to want it all ways.
As I write this, Niki Savva has just been awarded the Australian Book Industry General Nonfiction Book of the Year award for 2017 for her other book, The Road to Ruin. I enjoyed it when I read it about a year ago, but not as much as I enjoyed this book.
There's not much I can add to the reviews for So Greek. I really enjoyed it. I loved reading Niki's story; how her family came to Australia, what lead her into journalism, her work as a political staffer. Niki shares her relationships: with her sister, with Peter Costello, and with others who've greatly impacted her life.
I particularly enjoyed the new chapter - chapter 16 - in the revised edition. It discusses the aftermath of the 2010 election and has some very interesting things to say.
The book is part migrant story and autobiography, part professional memoir.
The personal story is interesting and well told.
The professional memoir is mostly her time as a political staffer. Her time as Costello's Press Secretary left the greatest impression on her. Overall, there's interesting stuff in there, but the telling, well, there are a lot of anecdotes that make points that she's already made in other anecdotes.
She improved with each book. I suspect the politics got more intriguing with each. This is her first book.
This book, part memoir and part political commentary, was written by the accomplished and articulate Niki Savva. She writes primarily about her experiences as former political bureau chief for the Age and the Australian during the reign of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, and as press secretary for treasurer Peter Costello.
I must admit that my knowledge of this period in Australian political history is pretty meagre given my age, and this is certainly something very different to what I would normally pick up at the library - but it was very interesting nonetheless. Savva also writes about the struggles and bravery of her chronically ill sister, her experiences and understanding of the Australian political system and the Canberra press gallery, and reconciling her Greek heritage with her Australian citizenship in a much more racist era.
The book is best skimmed - there are certainly parts which didn't appeal to me at all, but her sense of humour and her insight into the system (having worked from both sides) is what really makes the best chapters in the book.
Niki Sava migrated to Australia from Cyprus when she was a child. Her family had staunch left-wing views. She followed this allegiance well into her career as a political journalist. Despite this, she struck up a relationship with Peter Costello. This lead to her working as his press secretary for six years while he was Federal Treasurer. She then worked on John Howard's staff for three years.
I enjoyed Savva's insights into political relationships. Although she holds Costello in high esteem she believes that his mistakes and poor timing prevented him from leading the Liberal Party. The opinions she expresses on certain politicians are interesting.
I found this to be funny, sad and at times frustrating but equally fascinating as the life journey from one country/culture/career/political profession to another.
Niki Savva was a senior correspondent in the Canberra Press Gallery and takes us through the challenges of being a migrant woman in Australia to rising through the ranks of political journalism to head the Canberra bureaus then into politics, in spite of her own political convictions.
This one is pretty fun and Nikki's sense of humour is very Greek as well. She is pretty honest why Costello didn't take over the leadership and her experience about family illness is worth-reading as well.