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Our Times: The Age of Elizabeth II Hardcover – December 22, 2009

3.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Although the second Elizabethan era has been a period in which the majority of the British basked in comfort, security, and luxury, it is also the reign in which Britain effectively stopped being British, contends the opinionated and entertaining Wilson (After the Victorians). The prolific novelist and historian points to immigrants who have not integrated or learned English, the virtual dissolution of the Church of England, the injection of American culture, and membership in the European Union as destructive of the common culture and national identity. According to Wilson, the late Princess Diana paradoxically reminded people of why monarchy is a more satisfactory system of government than republicanism. It allows a focus on persons, rather than upon institutions. The Profumo affair strengthened the press, but intelligent people who wanted their sex lives to remain private were frightened away from politics. Delightfully sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, and always controversial and ironic, Wilson takes no prisoners as he calls Queen Elizabeth II badly educated, Churchill an embarrassment in his last days as prime minister, and Tony Blair a Thatcherite who lacked the one thing necessary to be a successful Thatcherite, namely the enjoyment of being hated. 24 pages of b&w illus. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for Our Times

“The author’s often unconventional and funny takes on even the most familiar of subjects keep the pages turning.” —Stephen Lowman, The Washington Post

“[An] idiosyncratic history of modern Britain . . . In The Victorians and After the Victorians, Mr. Wilson showed an uncanny capacity for getting at the heart of past ages. In Our Times, the trilogy’s concluding volume . . .The author once again gives us a multifaceted portrait of an era. Like its predecessors, the book is enlivened by Mr. Wilson’s gift for anecdote [and] character analysis . . . His discussion of the time is infused with a directly personal memory of people, places and events. The result is a piquant refraction of an era of enormous change through a prism that is highly individualistic, even at times eccentric, but in the end deeply rooted and fundamentally true . . . The enthusiasms expressed in Our Times are enjoyable to encounter, but it is Mr. Wilson’s wicked wit that carries the reader along.” —Martin Rubin, The Wall Street Journal

“Delightfully sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, and always controversial and ironic.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Our Times] shows the author as a deeply committed watcher of our time, offering even American readers a great deal to ruminate over. By turns sardonic, rueful, engaging and cantankerous.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Wilson produces a history that even those not familiar with Great Britain will find fascinating.” —Library Journal

“A. N. Wilson’s Our Times is a scholarly, dark, and at times mordantly funny view of Britain’s recent history.” —Michael D. Langan, The Buffalo News



Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (December 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374228205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374228200
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,332,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is the concluding volume of A. N. Wilson's trilogy of modern British history, preceded by The Victorians and After The Victorians. The book begins with the coronation of Elizabeth II and goes right on up to the bumbling ineptitude of Gordon Brown in 2008. It traces the rapid decline and fall of "Britishness" with one small, shining moment known as "Thatcherism." True, A. N. Wilson is an opinionated dunderhead whose writing turns to journalistic drivel more often than not. But I don't care because he's produced yet another thumping good read. The pages turn themselves, I swear.

Oh, and too bad no U.S. publisher has yet picked up this wonderful book. Maybe the head of the Nobel Prize committee on literature had a point about American insularity. Luckily, there's amazon.co.uk where I got my copy (and, oddly enough, the shipping seems to be faster than amazon.com).
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I could hardly bear to put this book down. A.N. Wilson is unsurpassed in his ability to turn a fine phrase or craft a devious witticism, and here he provides a worthy successor to his The Victorians and After The Victorians. This volume begins with the accession of Elizabeth II in 1952, but it rarely mentions the monarch herself, concentrating instead on the multitudinous changes which have marked her reign, making Britain a much more prosperous place to live while causing the country to lose its special character or "Britishness." Wilson never seems quite able to define exactly what it is that the British have lost, anymore than anyone else can, but he does succeed in making the point that something that made Britain special is gone, and that the country, while richer and freer than it was in 1952, is the worse for the loss.

The book runs roughly chronologically through the Queen's six decades as Head of State. Wilson delights in bursting bubbles and serrating reputations, as when he labels Churchill's last years as PM a national embarrassment. He freely tosses around terms like "second rate" and "ineffectual", providing evidence with some barbed anecdotes that are wickedly fun to read. His chief target is the so-called "chattering classes", self-appointed elites who presumed they formed the Establishment in its various phases. Some of his heroes are a bit unexpected: he has kind words for Margaret Thatcher and the Prince of Wales. One of his most interesting chapters comes towards the end: "The Return of God," an examination of the interplay of faith and science.

Wilson ends his book with a chapter on the increasingly hapless Gordon Brown, which is particularly appropriate since it helps set the stage for the approaching General Election. I'm an American and an anglophile of many years standing. I found much in this book to be surprising and sometimes infuriating, but every word was entertaining and thought provoking.
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A.N. WILSON'S short history of the United Kingdom during the reign of HM Queen Elizabeth II is lively and informative.
A distinguished Historian with several other more serious tomes published during a long career A.N.Wilson has taken on the relatively difficult task of a historical analysis on a period many of the readership will have lived through. Therefore, readers will know from experience or anecdotally something of many areas this book covers.
He manages to start his account of post-WW2 British Isles from the standpoint of J.R.Tolkein's epic English language fairy-tale, Lord of the Rings which was largely conceived in reaction to the enormous trials & tribulations brought about by the 2 great European conflicts (1914-18/1939-45)! However, from that slightly off-the-target beginning emerges an erudite and closely detailed checklist of all the main Britishness issues.
From 1950s Oxbridge 'Spy-ring' scandals through to Profumo-Keeler scandal and on to epic scandal of Thatcher's sycophant Tory Cabinet turning on the 'only man' in it ('Thatcher', as Dennis Skinner shouted out during her resignation Commons speech) and up to the much more recent scandal of Stephen Lawrence-Met Police 'institutionalised racism': Those topics of course being part of the introduction to the social-political background ethos of each decade.
A.N.Wilson's account of G.B. ascent/descent, depending on the reader's particular outlook, into the EUropean Union is covered in some depth: However, there is a lack of appreciation of the impact of this fundamental change on Britons and their cultural viewpoint.
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This is a rather puzzling book. Although it is highly entertaining and cleverly written, it is sometimes hard to see a clear thread running through the work. To the extent that one can be discerned, it is that Britain is simply not what it once was. Moreover, it is now just a relic and has been heading downwards through the whole period of "our times" i.e. during the second Elizabethan era.

A.N. Wilson's book begins with the latter days of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. He is now an old man whose mind has gone and his glory days just memories. It continues through the 1950s and its various scandals and failures. Think Profumo, think Suez. It moves on to the maudling Wilson period of the 1960s and the brief Prime Ministerships of Heath and Callaghan before considering Margaret Thatcher. In the "iron lady", we see someone prepared to take on her opponents without fear, but in the end, she is hated and replaced by the nice but dithering John Major. It concludes with Tony Blair and his wars before turning in finality to Gordon Brown, a man for whom the Prime Ministership was always a goal but, when he got there, he knew not what to do.

In spite of the book's agenda not always being clear, I found it to be a good read. It rumbles along at a good pace. It never tires the reader nor seems wanting for a strong opinion from time to time.

"Our Times" is the third part of a broader work of history by Wilson. The series covers the time from the reign of Queen Victoria in the 19 th century until the near of the reign of Queen Elizabeth in the 21 st century. In that time, Britain has moved from being a global superpower to that of a middling power arguably still in relative decline. If nothing else, this outcome should serve as a warning to all politicians who think their country's time in the sun will never end.
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