My book review of 'Spider Woman: A Life' by Lady Hale

Spider Woman: A Life

by Lady Hale
Spider Woman: A Life
by Lady Hale

As President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale won global attention in finding the prorogation of Parliament to be unlawful.

That dramatic moment, though, was merely the pinnacle of a career throughout which she was viewed as a pioneering reformer. This book is a fascinating account of her achievements.

Lady Hale cut an arresting figure on our television screens and in the newspapers as we grappled with the extraordinary events in 2019.

A modest, unassuming figure in black save for a sparkling spider brooch, she caught the nation's attention with her quiet authority as she presided over the startling proceedings.

Arguably few knew of her before this moment, and this book tells us how she came to be the most senior judge in the country.

Brenda Hale grew up in Yorkshire and was a studious and conscientious pupil who could choose between places in Oxford or Cambridge. She had been advised to go into law, though, because she wasn't good enough at history. 

She progressed with a determination and single-mindedness, readily accepting opportunities to move through the ranks, gaining experience in different facets of the law along the way.

It was always her aim was to show that 'women are equal to everything' and through her landmark rulings in areas including domestic violence, divorce, mental health and equality she brought a rare but essential female perspective.

This isn't a whimsical memoir, as you might expect. The early years of her life read to me most warmly, with colour and most personal detail. I didn't feel that I learned much about the emotions and motivations in this account of a life.

Lady Hale presents her career and some of the notable cases in an objective and studious manner. It confirmed for me that law is not a career in which I personally would have flourished, but I did find it hugely encouraging in how it revealed the depth of the intellect, learning and application that she, and her colleagues, brought to their roles in safeguarding the democracy of this nation. Well worth reading.

Review date: October 2021
Publication date: 7th October 2021