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VINE VOICEon 28 December 2008
As a young woman, Betty Boothroyd flirted briefly with a stage career before returning to her first love: politics. Forty years later she achieved a curious kind of stardom when she became the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons.

The only child of working class parents, Betty paints a vivid picture of her childhood in the Yorkshire mill town of Dewsbury. Limited educational opportunities meant that she had to set about earning her keep from the day she left school. From this unpromising background, Betty forged a career based on hard work, quick-wittedness and a gift for making friends with people from every walk of life.

Much of the book is taken up by a fascinating and acutely observed insider's view of Parliament (Betty was an MP's secretary long before she became an MP) and the British Labour Party from the 1950s to the beginning of the 21st century. Whilst her heart was in domestic politics, the internationally-minded Boothroyd travelled widely, including a spell working for the Kennedy campaign in the early 1960s.

Crucially, however, it's about parliamentary democracy: how it works and why it matters.

Passionate, plain-speaking and good-humoured, Betty Boothroyd writes as she has lived: at a breathless pace with occasional breaks for a cup of tea or a gin and tonic. This is a highly readable and thoroughly honest account of a life in politics (and how much fun it all was).
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on 20 October 2002
Betty Boothroyd describes her life, starting as a child in a working-class home in Yorkshire, progressing to a brief but much-publicised spell with the Tiller Girls dancing troupe; becoming after a long struggle a Labour MP, and finally her election as the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons. I enjoyed this book, and would rate it next to Ted Heath's autobiography in that genre. I'm really put off by political autobiographies which the authors use to justify their past record, or settle old scores. Betty does neither. Instead, she gives a lively account of life climbing the political pole, and a refreshing insight into Westminster, from the unusual vantage-point of the Speaker's chair. Her vision of the role of Parliament in controlling the governing party of the day, and holding it accountable, is inspiring. She is an instinctive, energetic politician, not a theoretician, but her warmth and heartfelt insights are nonetheless inspiring. She does keep the reader somewhat at arm's length from her personal life, which is probably prudent in today's senationalist society.This is a fairly easy read, but an enjoyable one.
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on 11 November 2001
Many of us have read John Major, Maggie Thatcher, Wilson, and other political biographies simply because we're political animals. Betty Boothroyd's contribution is unusual - she combines the trials and tribulations of being a parliamentarian with the funny and humourous side of the role.
As the first woman Speaker in the Commons, she overcame significant obstacles in gaining the fierce reputation she held as she retired. In this excellent, moving and often funny book, she recounts some of the difficult times she had, faultlessly combining these stories with the often hilarious antics of her Westminster colleagues.
The ending to the book leaves the reader with a clear idea of how she intends to use her time in the House of Lords, as Baronness Boothroyd. She may not be as prominent a figure as she has been in the lower house, but I have no doubt that she will be just as principled.
This is an excellent book, and it will appeal to all - even those for whom the genre of 'politics' normally leaves cold. Superb - order it now!
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on 14 August 2009
As someone in her 50s, I found the political memories in this book very interesting, as I also remember quite a few of the events and people. It was interesting also to read some of Madam Speaker's "insider" information. However, my enjoyment of the book was somewhat diminished as I found the style of writing in very short sentences made the text very disjointed and not comfortable to read.
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on 4 October 2013
A MONTHLY CHOICE FOR OUR READING GROUP. ENTERTAINING AND INTERESTING. A LIFE OF A REMARKABLE WOMAN WHO WORKED HER WAY UP IN THE POLITICAL WORLD FROM FACTORY GIRL TO SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS. NON PARTISAN IN HER OUTLOOK AS SPEAKER WHILE REMAINING A STAUNCH SUPPORTER OF THE LABOUR PARTY, SHE UNDERSTOOD THE WORKINGS OF PARLIAMENT, MET THE MOST IMPORTANT LEADERS IN THE WORLD OF POLITICS, MADE FRIENDS WITH THE PRESS AND MEDIA BUT DID NOT SUFFER FOOLS. HER STRONG CHARACTER IN THE DAYS WHEN WOMEN HAD TO FIGHT THEIR CORNER PLUS THE SUPPORT OF HER MOTHER ENSURED HER SUCCESS.
A GOOD READ.
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on 6 October 2015
Absolutely loved it, my father was a staunch socialist but Betty Boothroyd also her life was for the people and a Labour person
came from a different world of my father.
Although I regard myself as being a Conservative ( due mainly to my fathers obstinate ideals) It would in deed be a great pleasure to meet this young lady.
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on 14 April 2015
This is one of those books that gives you quite a surprise of the person behind the professional facade - she had a much more interesting life than you realise & first female Speaker of the House of Commons. Strongly held views. Lively & entertaining - to be recommended.
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on 25 March 2014
Betty Boothroyd is quite remarkable: her story and zest for life are unique. This was a welcome gift to a nonogenarian who enjoys surveying the passage of life and course of history.
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on 5 June 2015
Not the best autobiography I have read neither in style or substance. If you are interested in politicians try Denis Healey's The Time Of My Life.
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on 6 April 2015
It was an interesting read.
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