My greatest worry about Garrow's biography was that it might have been written by lawyers for their peers. I prefer my resources to be readable without having a legal adviser on speed-dial for emergency translations.
"I will put it now to you" that I was positively surprised when, some pages into the book, it became clear that the authors had found the right words to satisfy both groups of readers: the curious professional and the professionally curious ones.
I'm aware that the biography of a lawyer is probably not the first choice when it comes to reading for leisure, but I can promise you that you will not be bored. Be prepared for a wake-up call, though - by diving into the legal world of the 18th and 19th century, you might get to appreciate our legal system more once you realise just how much it has changed for the better in terms of humanity and the value and respect given to human life.
Some will argue (and to a point I agree) that today's society is too focused on the criminals and does not do enough for the victims. But still, who would want to return to a time when people got hanged for a theft of goods worth 30s? I mean, who but the readers of certain tabloids?
This book contains Garrow's history, his family background, his unusual relationship with Lady Sarah, some of his cases (with excerpts of his cross-examinations) and describes the changes he initiated in British law and, as a consequence, in British society. It's well-structured, easy to read and understand.
Don't let the excellent TV show "Garrow's Law" fool you, though: Sir William Garrow wasn't a knight in shining armour. In fact, the aggressive young barrister fighting for the "underbelly" of society went, as Geoffrey Robertson QC puts it so eloquently in his foreword, "over to the dark side"; he became the cruel bite to Pitt's hysteric bark.
"Did success spoil William Garrow?" I'm afraid that yes, it did. But this doesn't change the fact that Sir William Garrow was one of those men who shaped the foundations of the world we know today, and it's a great thing his story has finally been written.