this product is unavailable for purchase using a firm account, please log in with a personal account to make this purchase.

Beyond the law: Creative practice

Every Issue

Cite as: September 2015 89 (9) LIJ, p.100

Seeing family disputes as a lawyer was illuminating for novelist John Tesarsch. By Libby Brown 

Forced to forgo a promising career as an international cello soloist, Melbourne barrister John Tesarsch found his creative voice in fiction. He has just published his second novel The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman.

Setting his book in Melbourne during the global financial crisis, and looking back at Henry Hoffman’s escape from Vienna during World War ll, the author combines his knowledge of music, literature, history and the law in this compelling story of family fallout after discovery of Henry’s wills.

The idea for the book came from his legal work. Will disputes are “illuminating on the nature of the human condition . . . the intersection between family and money, childhood grievances and vendettas,” Mr Tesarsch said.

“You see people who go about their lives and are successful, but they are turned inside out by a family will dispute and become wild cats. Is it because of the dispute or has it always been there?

“The parents regulate the interaction between the siblings while they are alive, but when they are no longer there, all hell can break loose.”

The characters are fictional, but Mr Tesarsch can relate to Henry’s youngest daughter Sarah in her pursuit of excellence and her single-mindedness in mastering the piano. “It’s a place I’ve been,” Mr Tesarsch said, referring to the time he was on his way to a promising career as a cello soloist.

Aged 19 and in the early stages of studying a combined law/music degree at the University of Melbourne, Mr Tesarsch won a prestigious music scholarship and moved to Vienna. Practising cello for eight hours a day, he developed an allergy to the rosin on the strings. With no treatment and no effective replacement, Mr Tesarsch abandoned playing the instrument and finished his law degree.

He worked as a solicitor at what was then Freehills for three years before returning to Vienna to try playing a cello with synthetic strings created especially for him. But the strings were ineffective, and Mr Tesarsch returned to join the Victorian Bar.

He suffered another setback when he was diagnosed with tongue cancer aged 31. He took a year off work for treatment, then returned to practice as a solicitor. Ten years later, in 2013, he re-signed the Bar Roll.

It was during his time as a solicitor that Mr Tesarsch started writing fiction. His first book The Philanthropist was published in 2011.

Mr Tesarsch has a broad commercial practice specialising in insurance and professional negligence. He lectures on insurance law, having developed the course with a colleague, for the post graduate masters course at the University of Melbourne.

He hopes that between his roles of barrister, lecturer and family man (he is married with two sons aged eight and six) and the piles of unread books, he will find time to focus on his next novel.

The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman is available at the LIV bookshop.


Leave message

 Security code
LIV Social