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A Fortunate Life [Hardcover]

Paddy Ashdown
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 April 2009
No other British political leader of the post-war generation could have written a book like this for the simple reason that no other modern politician has led a life as varied, adventurous and dramatic as its author. He has been, in turn, an officer in the Royal Marine Commandos, a member of the Special Boat Service, a diplomat, an MP and leader of his party and an international peacemaker in war-torn Bosnia.He can, and does, write with authority about topics as diverse as evading water bailiffs while fishing illicitly at night (a legacy of his childhood in Northern Ireland); tracking down and destroying infiltrating Indonesian forces in the jungles of Sarawak; landing a raiding party from a submerged submarine; the difficulties of learning Chinese (he holds the equivalent of a first-class degree in Chinese, just one of his six languages); winning an apparently 'hopeless' parliamentary seat; negotiating with Tony Blair; and bringing stability to a country wracked by civil warHe is deadly serious when writing about the things that matter to him - his family, his country, his party, the Bosnian people whose cause he adopted when it was deeply unpopular to do so - but he also has a refreshing gift for seeing the funny side of most situations and illustrates it with self-deprecating wit and a wealth of anecdote. Although this book covers his years in politics - the chapter on 'The Winning of Yeovil', an eight-year campaign to overturn an impregnable Conservative majority with the help of a second-hand printing press called Clarissa and a supply of potent home-made wine is particularly memorable - it is hard to imagine anything less like a traditional political memoir. This is the self-portrait of a man who has lived life to the full and whose autobiography would be fascinating, even if he had never set foot in Palace of Westminster - a place whose intrigues and self-absorption, he acknowledges, he often found tedious.This is an autobiography by a politician which is totally unlike the traditional political memoir. It is the story of a life lived to the full, as a Royal Marine Commando, a member of the Special Boat Service and an international peacemaker, as well as an MP and a party leader. At a time when politicians are viewed with derision and suspicion, Paddy Ashdown is widely respected and admired, even by his political opponents. This books shows why. It presents national newspaper serialisation and author tour.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (21 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845134192
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845134198
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 16.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 332,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Fascinating and uplifting and genuinely, without irony, heroic, the sort of book you should read to your kids, just to let them know what can be done.' --Sunday Times, April 2009

'Paddy Ashdown tells us what he did and how he did it, and very entertaining it is too.' --The Times, April 2009

Book of the Week --Mail on Sunday, April 2009


'Ashdown has a terrific tale to tell, and he tells it well.'

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Dares Wins 8 May 2009
Paddy Ashdown once gave a friend of mine a piece of advice: "there are few sins in moving too quickly".

Reading his immensely enjoyable memoirs, it is easy to see that Ashdown lived his life by that very rule. From his days in the Special Boat Service, through a life in politics and eventually in the managerial post of his career -- as the UN's point man in helping Bosnia-Herzegovina emerge from a devastating war -- the British politician has always moved quickly, sought to take the initiative and capture as much enemy territory before his adversaries have even realised an attack was under way.

Lord Ashdown says he has led a most fortunate life. "I was a soldier at the end of the golden age of imperial soldiering; a politician while politics was still a calling rather than a profession and an international peace builder backed by Western power, before Iraq and Afghanistan drained the West of both influence and morality."

I suspect he is being a bit too modest here. Luck and fortune come not to those who wait for a propitious moment, but to those who shape and seize opportunities. As the SBS motto has it, Who Dares Wins. Daring and swiftness of action can, of course, sometimes backfire. In the end of the chapter about his Bosnia experience, Ashdown admits he probably got out of the country too early, leaving a number of crucial reforms unfinished. In the chapter about his ultimately aborted appointment as the UN chief in Kabul, the reader gets the sense that he probably assumed too quickly that Afghan president Hamid Karzai would welcome his role. But the times when Ashdown's desire for momentum let him down are few and far in between.

"A Fortunate Life" has an easy style, as do Ashdown's autumnal reflections. The reader is not encumbered by faux philosophical observations, but easily-worn insights. A great book and so far one of my favourite reads this year.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read 2 Sep 2010
Well you will finish the book wondering why we never trusted this man to run the country, a decent honest chap who had a life of trying to do good for others, apart from proportional representation.
It almost has you in tears reading about relationships with people in the Balkans suffering during the war.
well worth reading and its about someone who actually had a life rather than reading about celebrities who have done nowt.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Univeral appeal 10 May 2009
Most books take a while to get into but not this one - I was riveted from the prologue and then couldn't put it down - I laughed and cried in equal measure. In between times I was living the experiences with him. I've fallen in love with Bosnia and now want to see it for myself. What a book. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paddy Ashdown (autobiography). 5 Jun 2010
I'm about 3/4 of the way through this book & am thoroughly enjoying it.His life before politics is absolutely fascinating,& the amount of "behind the scenes" talking that goes on between politicians of different parties is a real eye-opener.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Re-living a period with Paddy Ashdown 23 Nov 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought a Kindle version of Paddy Ashdown's book and that was a mistake. I should have bought a printed copy. Why was this? because Paddy makes lots of references and you need to flip backwards and forwards to really get the full benefit of this good book.
The Kindle production is dull by comparison. This is a book to be valued, put on your shelves and taken down time after time.

Alan Lovegreen
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars truely a fortunate life 31 May 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A Fortunate Life

This a success story that flows nicely through a good life.
A better than adverage start as a child,but no silver spoons here, a determind man with hard work, a bit of luck ( as he admits ), true to himself and his personal values makes this a good interesting and entertaining read with candor,humour and honesty.
I think he deserved his Fortunate Life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fortunate indeed, but a life lived to the full 23 Nov 2011
This is a superbly well-written and fantastically honest, humourous, gently self-deprecatory account of the life of a man who had the great good fortune to have a solidly loving and supportive family, and, as he admits, the great privilege of a sound, rather classy, education, which equipped him well to cope with both the many opportunities which came his way and those which he helped make for himself. A lovely man, yes, another Macleod, another best prime minister we never had. I'm just sorry to have finished this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Autobigraphy of a Remarkable Man 1 Aug 2009
This book reveals the incredible life of a truly interesting man who has courage, tenacity and a willingness to help others. It is at times funny, at times serious and at times sad. As he himself has said, he has had five separate lives, all lived to the full. Not to be missed, a book to remember. Well written Paddy Ashdown.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
Well written and an enjoyable read . Paddy seems a genuinely nice man that has lead a remarkable life. Would recommend to others.
Published 4 months ago by Ryan Strachan
5.0 out of 5 stars a fortunate life.
gave it as a christmas pressie, they loved it. can't fault a book as a gift,
especially when they pay for it themselves.
Published 6 months ago by A. C. Harry
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
I have to admit that this is actually a good read. It's a chronicle of the life of Ashdown giving an insight into his thought process and his interesting career.
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I can see why he calls it fortunate (meaning lucky) as he seems to have made some idiotic decisions which somehow came out OK in the end. Read more
Published 13 months ago by brian r
5.0 out of 5 stars christmas present
I purchased this for my husband for christmas and he was quite happy when he opened it, he has not finished reading it yet but is enjoying it. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I know a book is good when stop noticing where I am on my tube journey to work - slightly dangerous, but I like to, y'know, live life on the edge - and whilst reading this book, I... Read more
Published 17 months ago by HannHearts
5.0 out of 5 stars Memories Revisited
Having been one of Paddy's Troop Commanders in 'E' Company of 41 Commando, Royal Marines, I was intrigued to read of our common work way back in 1971-1972! Read more
Published 18 months ago by Ian Watson
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, moving and interesting account of a remarkable life
It is a tribute to Paddy Ashdown's varied and fascinating careers that even hardened politicos reading his autobiography do not express regret at how relatively briefly his British... Read more
Published on 13 Mar 2012 by Mark Pack
4.0 out of 5 stars wow, what a life
I had no idea Paddy had lead such an interesting and influencial life. Loved it. Great respect for him. His family sound fantastic too.
Published on 15 Feb 2012 by S. Mcnally
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable
Paddy Ashdown describes his extraordinary life with honesty and a sensitivity that one would expect. Read more
Published on 13 July 2011 by D. J. Andrews
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