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Cold Cream: My Early Life and Other Mistakes Paperback – 2 Mar 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747596476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747596479
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Hard to beat. I could read this sort of book for ever' Stephen Fry, Independent 'Reading this book actually makes you feel perceptibly happier and buoyed up' Evening Standard 'An unadulterated joy Every page is shot through with anecdote and wit, so that the whole experience feels like being at a peculiarly wonderful dinner party Funny, astute and clever' Observer 'A loving, lyrical, life-filled memoir' Guardian

About the Author

Ferdinand Mount was born in 1939, the son of a steeplechase jockey, and brought up on Salisbury Plain. After being educated at Eton and Oxford, he made various false starts as a children's nanny, a gossip columnist, bagman to Selwyn Lloyd, and leader-writer on the doomed Daily Sketch. He later surfaced, slightly to his surprise and everyone else's, as head of Margaret Thatcher's Policy Unit and later editor of the Times Literary Supplement. He is married with three children and two grandchildren and has lived in Islington for half his life. Apart from political columns and essays, he has written a six-volume series of novels, A Chronicle of Modern Twilight, which began with The Man Who Rode Ampersand, based on his father's racing life, and included Of Love And Asthma (he is a temporarily retired asthmatic), which won the Hawthornden Prize for 1992. He also writes what he calls Tales of History and Imagination, including Umbrella, which the historian Niall Ferguson called 'quite simply the best historical novel in years'.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 April 2009
Format: Paperback
Let me get a niggle or two out of the way before I express my enjoyment of this delightful book. Ferdinand Mount does warn us in his foreword that he will follow Mark Twain, who had written that `the right way to do an autobiography [is to] start at no particular time of your life; wander at will all over your life; talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment; drop it at the moment its interest threatens to pale, and turn your talk upon the new and more interesting thing that has intruded itself into your mind meantime.' This `stream of consciousness' way of writing can be a little exhausting, especially when in the four long chapters there is never any natural break where one could put the book down to resume it again later. Mount rightly describes this undisciplined way of writing a book as `self-indulgent'. In addition, this descendant of the aristocratic Pakenham family has a cavalier disdain for the conventional autobiography. He is not concerned about chronology, which at times is quite disconcerting; and though he describes himself on p.298 as `an obsessive genealogist', he does not trouble to tell pedantic readers like myself the names of his grandparents whom he describes; his sister is not given a name until page 91; and it is almost as if he expected you to know that his uncle Tony, first mentioned on page 35, is Anthony Powell - you learn that only on page 56. Cousins abound, often without indication who their parents are; the book could have done with a family tree, and the index rather lazily doesn't name the relationships either. Likewise, the poorly printed little photographs mostly have no captions, and neither has the frontispiece.

But I found this book hugely enjoyable.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey Woollard VINE VOICE on 17 May 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ferdinand Mount has written a five-star autobiography, but I have just one reservation about it despite having enjoyed it immensely.

Mr Mount 'jumps about' rather too much. The ultra-long chapters don't deal consecutively with aspects of his fascinating life. For example, the sad account of his mother's too-early demise is followed much later with episodes where the lady is alive again, and the book requires a degree of concentration that I don't always possess late at night when I do most of my reading.

Mr Mount has already in his fascinating life (and I hope he has many more years to come: we are round about the same age and I can recall some of the people and most of the events described) done more things and worked with more interesting people, not least some of the eccentric circle of his own family, his friends and his acquaintances, than many of us could ever wish for and, whilst I have known just one or two of those mentioned myself, it is such fun to get to 'know' more, even with what can only be 'second-hand' knowledge.

One of the newspaper reviewers has alluded to Mr Mount's 'name-dropping.' I recognise what the reviewer is getting at, for the sub-headings of the five main chapters include the following:

'Skiing with Donald MacLean,' John le Carré at Eton,' 'Miriam Margolyes on the hearthrug,' 'Prince Michael in the dorm,' 'My stepmother and Gore Vidal,' 'Lord Longford on the platform,' 'Harold Wilson and my tape recorder,' My odyssey with Selwyn Lloyd,' 'Keith Joseph's cold,' 'Ian Gow and Dr. Bodkin Adams,' 'The intolerable Alfred Sherman,' 'Jeffrey Archer's joke,' 'The Parkinson affair,' etc., etc.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. T. A. Pitman on 8 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
Most of the other reviews capture this book well. Mount's life is a bit of an upper class hoot for at least the first 23 years. The shift in tone is striking when he becomes head of Mrs. Thatcher's policy unit. One visibly sits up at that point.

The book captures the spirit of British life very well. It is all very ad hoc and reminds one again how surprising it is that we have produced a very serious country generally respected on the world stage. We are, of course, proud of being the home of eccentricity, which the book illustrates well.

Some points other reviewers have not made are:

- some points should have been expanded - for example, why does Mount think art ended or was not the same again after Donatello? Many masters followed him. I would be interested in more of Mount's views on this point.
- Presumably there is a second volume waiting - there is nothing after about 1984, including more prominent journalism.
- He reflects on the debate whether Mrs. Thatcher is a Tory at all, given how radical she is or was. He notes her ragged individualism and how small in number her true supporters were (there is hardly anyone at his retirement party).
- The hypocrisy of Anthony Powell - he apparently criticises "War and Peace" as a soap opera. Auberon Waugh called "A Dance to the Music of Time" an upper class soap opera (which is what it is), but Powell stormed out of his position as the Sunday Telegraph Literary Editor on reading this.

I would certainly read Volume 2!
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