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Margaret Thatcher: From Grantham to the Falklands Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 21, 2013
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By Anne Applebaum
Anne Applebaum is the author of several books, including Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, a National Book Award finalist, and Gulag: A History, which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. She writes a column for The Washington Post and Slate, and is the Director of Political Studies at the Legatum Institute in London. She divides her time between Britain and Poland, where her husband, Radek Sikorski, serves as Foreign Minister.
From the beginning she sounded different. She looked different too, particularly back when she had frizzy hair and wore too much jewelry…
Much has happened since then. She became the Iron Lady, she became prime minister, she became a symbol to love or hate, she became an “ism”…We all think we know what happened to her and why—but do we really?
Moore’s great gift is his ability to make Thatcher’s story fresh again, and above all to remind us of how odd she was. By beginning at the beginning, by showing us the reality of the childhood we only know through clichés—“grocer’s daughter,” “scholarship girl”—by introducing us to the boyfriends we’ve never met and by quoting from her chatty, breathless letters to her sister (“I decided to buy a really nice undie-set to go under my turquoise chiffon blouse”) Moore shows us how impossible it would have been for anyone who knew her as a young woman to imagine what she would become.
He also captures her unsettling personality, her “actressy” manner, her stiffness in public, her private warmth, her inept outbursts and faux pas, almost always using the language of people who were there at the time. During the decade and a half he worked on this authorized biography—of which this is only the first volume—Moore had unprecedented access to her private papers, on condition that nothing be published until after her death. He interviewed just about everyone who knew Thatcher, from her private secretaries to her political enemies, and he did so meticulously. This enabled Moore to produce not a hagiography or a court biography, as some feared he would, but a multi-faceted picture of a compelling and unusual life.
Moore is at his best when presenting different views of the same situation. Some of these contradictory impressions are explained by the fact that she was female in an almost entirely male world. In later years, many assumed she had no interest in other women or awareness of herself as a role model, but Moore shows over and over again that this was not the case.
Her oddity was also connected to her brilliance, another one of her qualities now lost beneath layers of history and controversy. Thatcher got to Oxford from Grantham not because she had connections but because she worked incredibly hard, even overcoming objections from a teacher who told her to forget Oxford because “you haven’t got Latin.” She said, “I’ll get Latin” and went to take lessons from a Latin teacher at a local boy’s school. Later, she passed the Bar exam after studying tax law on her own.
The same autodidactic instinct impelled her to study economic and political theory. Although this is very much a narrative biography, it is also a thematic book about ideas: where they come from, how they affect people and how they get shaped into policies. And Thatcher proved unusually receptive to what were then very unfashionable ideas. In the summer of 1968, when the rest of the world was turning on and dropping out, she was in her suburban sitting room reading library books on Conservative political philosophy.
In the end, this combination of biography and intellectual history works perfectly. After all, Thatcher’s ideas were shaped by the place where she was born, by the people she met, by Oxford in the 1940s and Finchley in the 1950s, by her quirkiness and her brilliance, by her provinciality and her romantic choices. To understand what happened to Britain during her prime ministership and afterwards, it really is important to understand who she was: Moore’s Thatcher will now become the definitive account.
Top Customer Reviews
Moore weaves biography, history, politics, psychology and sociology together in such a way that one cannot help but to be educated on a myriad of topics while reading this book. Much of what I remember about Thatcher while I was a teen and young adult had so much back-story revealed to me that I found myself more aware of Lady Thatcher, but also about British politics, American politics, political and historical figures, and world events of those times. Reading this book is an education.
One theme I picked up on here, as I have in reading about other great leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt and many others is that their personalities are not typical. They are literally different than most of us. Margaret Thatcher was a "mule," to use a description from the book. She worked extraordinarily hard her whole life. It is not enough to have dreams, ideas, or philosophies. The greats among us have the drive and energy to turn vision into action, and leave a lasting legacy. Margaret Thatcher developed her political philosophy during the course of her life and married that philosophy to her incredible energy to become a political force and renowned politician and leader.
This book is over 800 pages, with extensive footnotes, hundreds of sources, and a delight to read.Read more ›
Thatcher's father made a great impression on her early life. He was a storekeeper and a lay Methodist minister. Many of her strongest beliefs were instilled by her father at a early age. This included a strong work ethic and a strong desire to help those in need. For all of her critics claim to the contrary her greatest desire was always to look after the working men and women in England. Whenever she looked at a bill she tended to look at it like a housewife examining an item on the family budget. She disliked inflation because she felt that it wiped out the hard earned savings of industrious workers. She fought hard to sell off government owned housing to the people who lived in the housing.
Moore tells us a lot about her early life.Read more ›
Margaret Thatcher, like nearly all great personalities and leaders, possessed incredible drive and passion. Hundreds of interviews and thousands of government and personal historical documents confirm that Thatcher had drive and passion, and combined with her belief in traditional values, was able to become a force in British politics and world affairs. Most interesting to me was her capacity to work. She was always focused on her goals, and looking forward to whatever needed to be done next. Many, even most of her associates, underestimated her abilities. She was not particularly charismatic or socially skilled, but was able to work with others to accomplish much of what she wanted to do at each stage of her life.
The juicy details of her personal life are intriguing of course, but the insights of her family, friends, and associates is what really sets this work apart. The personal and government documents used as sources are many, but other well-written biographies utilize libraries full of documentation too. Less common, and more interesting to me, is the vast number of people interviewed for this work. They are often very candid, and not always in a flattering way. Moore expertly weaves the personal and historical together in such a way as to present the most thorough biography possible. Of course, not all recollections are factually accurate, but Moore points out any inconsistancies by Thatcher or others.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Charles Moore's fantastic account of Margaret Thatcher's life "From Grantham to the Falklands" is a brilliant tribute to this inimitable woman who saved her a great nation from... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Rushad Thomas
Although this is the authorized biography, and the author is an admirer of his subject, it is far from a simple hagiography. Read morePublished 3 months ago by David
Charles Moore gives an honest review of Margaret Thatcher's ascent from a humble grocer's daughter to the pinnacle of her career as Prime Minister and war leader. Read morePublished 9 months ago by ckdjou
A great read about one of the most renowned leaders of the 20th century, Baroness Margaret Thatcher. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Kearn Webster