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Cherie Blair's main claim to fame is her marriage to Tony Blair who was Britain's Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007. However she is also an interesting individual in her own right: the daughter of a famous actor who has had a prestigious legal career as well as having a front row seat for recent political events. She was widely disliked in the UK, and I have to say that if you don't like Cherie Blair, this is probably not the book that will change your mind. I started reading it with an open mind, but by the end even I was getting tired of her! Having said that, I enjoyed reading "Speaking for Myself" and I recommend it (which may sound strange, but only if you think you need to like the subject of a biography to enjoy reading it).

One of the things that has always intrigued me about Mrs Blair is that she is such a contrast: a high achiever with a great deal of intelligence and yet so devoid of emotional intelligence that she is oblivious to the way that she comes across. It's clear from reading this book that she is a warm and caring person, intensely loyal to her family and friends, who does a lot for charity. It's also clear that she has poor personal judgement and no idea how to read situations.

Cherie grew up in working class Liverpool. Her father was largely absent from her life (she only found out that she had a new step-sister when she saw the birth notice in the newspaper). She was raised by her grandmother and mother and developed a strong sense of feminism from an early age. What's interesting is that she then chose to go into law - one of the most conservative occupations that she could have chosen - and to marry a man whose political ambitions meant that she was condemning herself to playing a support role. She makes a throwaway comment at one stage about how simple her life could have been had she chosen to marry someone else, but the fact is that she made her choices knowingly and yet proceeds to complain about the consequences at great length. It's hard to muster the sympathy that she clearly feels she deserves.

Cherie also has a preoccupation with financial security, which is not attractive but nevertheless understandable given her working class background. What she doesn't seem to get however is how inappropriate it is for a woman in her privileged position to complain about being hard up. Instead it's as if she thinks that if she just explains one more time about how Tony went from earning £80,000 per annum to £20,000 per annum when he became an MP, then we'd suddenly get it and feel sorry for her.

In the early days of Tony's political career, he and Cherie had a strong partnership. The dynamic between them changed when he became PM. Cherie had to accept that she didn't get to know what was going on and that Alastair Campbell would make decisions about what she could and couldn't do. She felt quite isolated in Downing Street (at one point she refers to herself as "the prisoner") and probably as a consequence she developed very close relationships with her hairdresser Andre and with her "lifestyle adviser" Carole Caplin. Nevertheless when things all fall apart with Carole, she comments that she didn't have the emotional energy to deal with Carole's misery. This section of the book is Cherie at her worst. She had gone through a miscarriage, felt financially insecure and was generally feeling sorry for herself. She is so pre-occupied with her own woes that she doesn't give much thought to the looming conflict in Iraq and she also never admits that she made errors of judgement (the inability to acknowledge her mistakes is a recurring flaw in her character).

The best parts of the book are when Cherie is talking about the places she's been and people that she's met. Her descriptions of official visits to China, Pakistan and Rwanda are fascinating, as are her observations about world players like the Clintons, President Bush, Vladimir Putin, the Royal Family and the very theatrical Silvio Berlosconi. (Putin's wife tells her that Putin has a rule that you must never praise a woman as that will only spoil her). She had a unique front row to history and she's very open about what she thinks. The book is also very amusing at times - I laughed out loud when she described sitting her driving test. She comes across as being very honest throughout, even when it's to her detriment (and it often is).

The book is long and could easily have been shorter. (There's too much about her early boyfriends for example.) It's not badly written, but a better editor would also have encouraged a greater degree of self-scrutiny. She's an interesting and complex woman but this is not the book it could have been. Nonetheless, despite these criticisms, I enjoyed it very much.
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on November 25, 2008
Others have written excellent reviews of this book, which I endorse. I am reading it on my Kindle and realized pretty quickly that it had been re-written for the US market in my edition. I don't quite understand why - US readers are quite able to understand English English, so what's the point? They even left Harry Potter alone in US editions, written for children. It's very irritating to read the well-educated Ms Blair's grammar changing to US English, so be warned before you purchase it in electronic form.
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VINE VOICEon October 28, 2008
I knew relatively little about Cherie Blair before going to her book signing and purchasing her book. I found it a quick read and remarkably frank for a person who has been in public life. She doesn't hold back on very much -- she discusses her methods of birth control, her exasperation with the press, her religious ups and downs, pretty much everything.

Clearly, she and Tony had and still have an excellent marriage and a relationship of equals to a large extent. The comparison with the Clintons (who were friends of the Blairs' and whom Blair discusses in the book) is instructive.

I found Cherie Blair to be a woman of excellent instincts who was sometimes overwhelmed by events. She is far more family-oriented than I had expected to find; although she was a path-breaker in her role as a woman barrister and Queen's Counsel in England, she is deeply devoted to her husband and children.

All in all, a very enjoyable book. It could have been shorter if she had left out some of the details of parliamentary elections and background political maneuvers.
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on October 13, 2010
I was looking for Tony Blair's book but the library didn't have it yet. So I picked up this one instead. I knew nothing about Cherie prior. The book is full of selected stories from throughout her life--she begins the book with her parents story and ends not too long ago. She offers many little stories about her life before and with Tony but no story really gets much more than 2 or 3 pages. So I was left with glimpses of what it was like to be the wife of the Prime Minister but they are just that--glimpses. However, each story is of interest--some were meaningless because I could not relate to who the people were (I live in U.S.)--and put together I concluded she is a lovely woman, happy, and in love her husband. It's a nice read.
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on March 29, 2009
I first heard about this book from an appearance of Ms. Blair on the Jay Leno show. She was so charming, funny and witty that I decided to purchase her memoir. I found this to be a joy to read. It was full of clever stories about her life before and now after her husbands terms.

I highly recommend this book.
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on November 16, 2008
I didn't really have a strong opinion of Cherie Blair when I bought this book; I bought it to gain insight into the Blair years. Having read it, I find her an amazingly naive and almost simple person, particularly surprising in contrast to her brilliant and charismatic husband, former UK PM Tony Blair.

Mrs Blair is not a gifted writer and the book plods along at a chronological, non-analytical pace, overly laden with minutiae of her past, starting even before her conception. While British "first ladies" have never had the prominent role of their US counterparts, Mrs Blair seems astounded that even the simplest of duties are asked of her. Nor are events given any particular emphasis in how they must have affected her life. While she isn't humorless, nor does she demonstrate much wit, usually in abundance in British books.

Nevertheless, I liked Cherie; she seems an honest person, deeply in love with her husband, family and her legal practice benefiting the underpriveleged. Her book falls quite short, however, in telling us about the life of one of Britian's most notable political families.
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on January 28, 2011
I thought this book was very interesting. She's a very bright lady and it shows in her writing. She desires a career, yet wants to have children as well. And, she's madly in love with her husband although she is not at all gushy about it.
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on January 25, 2009
Reading this autobiography was like talking to a best friend, who just happens to be the irrepressible Cherie Blair. There is much information, told very honestly and wonderfully openly. It is a great example of the saying that "truth is stranger than fiction". A novelist could not make this stuff up! Unlike many autobiographies, Cherie does not sugar coat anything or avoid any subject. She reveals herself completely: the wins, the losses, embarrassing but fascinating details that would make some blush. She even tells about her childhood in a way that makes it seem like a thrilling carnival, e.g., both her parents being actors, the ongoing antics of her father both funny and sad.

I suppose I was expecting something at least somewhat boring, written by a Barrister and the wife of a PM, but no--this book is a real page turner! You will be LOL many times while reading this book. Cherie has well earned her 5 stars!
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on June 2, 2009
I can't imagine Laura Bush or Hilary Clinton penning a book as candid, and funny as this. Cherie Blair is not afraid to show herself in an unflattering light or dish about her love life. She discusses posing nude as an artist model for extra money when a student; the fact that son Leo was conceived when she forgot her contraceptives and how Downing Street did not offer any domestic staff. Blair is a natural story teller and the book is full of anecdotes from her humble beginnings, life as working mum of four and a prime minister's wife (don't know how she juggled all this and still kept up her profession as a barrister) and her impressions of various political figures and members of the royal family. Through it all, her great love for her husband and her family shines through.
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on October 4, 2009
The book stands as rather an egocentric attempt of Cherie Blair to make herself clear in matters that really hurt her a lot during the tenure of her husband. Therefore, as the title indicates, the book is written just for personal purposes... The book is overshadowed of immense inferiority feelings of the writer which should in fact not exist at all given her credentials and personal achievements. One can't help but be shocked of how unprepared she were for the role her husband's position has given her. The accounts of important events are very superficial and compared with other similar world arena's actors memoirs, this one is really far behind expectations....
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