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Cousins and Strangers: America, Britain, and Europe in a New Century Paperback – December 26, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0805082579 ISBN-10: 0805082573 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; First Edition edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805082573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805082579
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,096,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. On one of his excursions for the European Commission, as colleagues slumbered in a Beijing guesthouse, Patten realized he had been left alone with president Jiang Zemin and used the moment to discuss Shakespeare. Jiang, we are told, "nodded with interest" as he learned of the bard's sympathies for "political stability." Anecdotes like this, all of them well-delivered, give this book a delicacy which is absent from most political analyses. As a senior British Conservative and the last governor of Hong Kong, Patten has a repertoire that shines with insider details. Readers feel the tension of being there as Kim Jong Il ("bouffant hairstyle...built-up Cuban heels; shiny gabardine boiler suits") suddenly appears "through a door or from behind a wall hanging like a character in pantomime or a Feydeau farce"; and as a "fit-looking...sharp-witted, very cold-eyed" Vladimir Putin, tells lies for Yeltsin; or when John Bolton, "the Pavarotti of neconservatism," says-when urged towards a stick-and-carrot approach with Iran-"I don't do carrots." This book goes wide and deep on a range of political issues, often revisiting old debates with imaginative arguments and the kind of hard-won perspective which only a few political veterans attain. Patten wants a European China policy which is not based on "ill-judged commercial aspirations" and an American foreign policy written by people who have learned from Thucydides that you shouldn't bully much weaker foes. Well-informed and light on its feet, this is the most enjoyable, readable and engaging a political book in recent memory.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Patten served as a member of Parliament and chairman of the Conservative Party, and he was the last British governor of Hong Kong. He views the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war as a watershed that has fundamentally altered transatlantic relations. His politics would probably define him as moderately conservative in American terms, and he displays great affection for the American people and their institutions. He mercilessly skewers America bashers from France and Britain as "political fatheads" who mask arrogant condescension behind a veneer of superior morality. But Patten does not minimize what he regards as a growing political and cultural divide between the U.S and her supposed allies that the persistence of the cold war papered over. Patten expresses his concerns about these points of friction in a sober and analytical mode and offers sensible suggestions for minimizing conflicts so our shared values and common interests can reemerge. A thoughtful work. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on July 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Chris Patten, a British politician, cabinet Minister, and EU functionary, has written a political autobiography of his life and times with astute commentary on the events of the last 40 years and a look toward the future of The World.

Patten has the usual British taste for understatement, delicately slicing rather than hammering people he does not like, who include George Bush -- although he is judicious in his Bush bashing and avoids making this a book about only America. Instead, he talks much of the EU, an institutuion of enormous importance and stultifying boringness.

It is the support of Americans for the IRA that seems to arouse his ire the most but unconditional American support for Israel and the Iraq war also grab his attention. He also throws small bombs at the pompous Jacques Chirac, former PM Maggie Thatcher, and Tony Blair. But this is not a political expose or a book of revenge on political opponents. Rather, Patten seeks to impart some of the wisdom he has accumulated, to speculate on the role of India and China in the future, and to affirm his faith in the collective rather than the cowboy approach to world affairs. He succeeds in being intelligent and civilized. Political junkies will find this book to be one of the better of its type. His dissection of the British/American relationship will be of the most interest to those on this side of the Atlantic.

Smallchief
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on April 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
Chris Patten has been everywhere and done many things. Such experience fills his memory with many aspects of international dealings. Gaining a focus on all that information and conveying it to readers in an organised fashion proves difficult, as this book shows. In an account of what he's observed over the years - "as close to a memoir as I will come" - he tries to explain the United Kingdom's struggle to balance its own interests with that of others. The "others" are Europe and the United States. How well does he achieve this?

After a rather rambling start, Patten gets to his theme: where does the UK stand in relation to its two most significant allies - the US and the EU? He emphasises that these are collectives, not single entities. This is important to remember as he discusses the formation and dealings within the EU and its relations with the rest of the world. It further raises questions of "sovereignty" and how that is considered by the three groupings under discussion. Sovereignty is something debateable and adjustable as the EU has successfully demonstrated. The US has taken a more rigid stance on the concept, which has inhibited its relations with the EU and coloured its dealings with the UK and the UN, the fourth element to be considered.

Patten strains somewhat to establish and maintain his "conservative" credentials. As a politician, he's a fairly staunch British Conservative. As a diplomat, however, the small "c" conservative has been the foundation of his dealings with nations and agencies. As a conservative, there are factors he wishes to protect and promote. He wants to retain the internationalism that prevailed at the end of WWII and, in the West, throughout the Cold War.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
From 1999 to 2004 Chris Patten was a member of the European Commission with responsibility for its External Relations. After an initial chapter which focusses on what unites and what divides Europe and the United States, the first half of this book deals with Patten's views on Britain's relationship with the European Community. I am not an enthusiast for Brussels myself, but I found this a most eloquent critique of Euroscepticism. Some things come out very strongly: Lord Patten's admiration of post-war Germany and for Helmuth Kohl in particular, and his rightful contempt for the Germanophobia so widespread in Britain and so fanned by the popular press and television. He puts it down to the fact that the `British' victory over Germany is the last episode in British history of which Britons can be proud, so that they compulsively replay that reel over and over again. He is contemptuous of the Tory Party, which, having under Heath taken Britain into Europe, then became the home of what Patten considers illogical arguments about sovereignty (a concept he examines with masterful authority). He is equally scathing about the British illusion that there really is something like a Special Relationship with the United States. The USA actually wants Britain to have a closer relationship with the European Union, and makes no compromises with British interests whenever those diverge from those of the United States. And although Europe and the United States share many values and Europe owes much to the USA in politics and culture, this has, since the end of the First World War, always been counter-pointed with a strand of anti-Americanism in Europe.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Reader from Singapore on April 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Published under the title of "Not Quite The Diplomat" in the UK, "Cousins and Strangers" is former Governor of Hong Kong, ex-Conservative Party Chairman and European Commissioner Chris Patten's career best confessional, offering exclusive and insightful peeks behind the scenes that have shaped major world events of geopolitical significance from the vantage point of privileged participant or close range observer over the course of his long and illustrious political and diplomatic career.

Patten's book is a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding read. Filled with wit, grace and humour, it is never dry or dull. Always sharply observed and intellectually honest, the many anecdotes that pepper these pages throw light on key world personalities that have played a central role in steering the competing blocs towards a new political equilibrium after the Cold War ceased in 1990. Never one to pull any punches, we are told who he unreservedly admires and who he considers charlatans or crooks. Not surprisingly, the excursion he takes us on covers the usual hot spots. More importantly, they are always scenic and never devoid of interest or insight. Chris Patten has written a marvelous book that should be read by anybody with any interest in understanding the personalities and forces that determine where our rapidly globalizing world is taking us. One of the best non-fiction books I have read in the past year. Highly recommended
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