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Margaret Thatcher Volume One: The Grocer's Daughter Hardcover – 18 May 2000

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First Edition/First Printing edition (18 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224040979
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224040976
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 4.4 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 662,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Love her or hate her, there is no escaping the impact that Margaret Thatcher has made upon post-war British Politics. The 1980s are indelibly marked as the Thatcher years, and her rise from Grantham grocer's daughter to Finchley MP in 1959, Leader of the Conservative Party by 1975, and Prime Minister by 1979 was as tenacious as it was controversial. Since being ousted from power, biographers have been busy reassessing her legacy. By far the most distinguished account to date is John Campbell's Margaret Thatcher. Volume One: The Grocer's Daughter. Campbell's credentials for the job are impeccable, having already written the acclaimed biography of Thatcher's great rival, Edward Heath, winner of the 1994 NCR Book Award. As he explains from the outset, this is not an authorised biography, but Thatcher's office made no attempt to prevent the reconstruction of Thatcher's life from her birth in Grantham to her entry into Downing Street. This is a blessing, as Campbell's immensely readable and even-handed book challenges the idealised myth of Thatcher's early life and indoctrination into the "Victorian values" of her Methodist father Alderman Roberts. According to Campbell, Thatcher reinvented herself as a wealthy Home Counties lady, through her difficult years at Oxford, marriage to Denis, and sexist responses from her party throughout her early years in Opposition. However, as her status as a "conviction politician" grew, and with the General Election of 1979 looming, she radically changed her image: "In place of the Home Counties Tory lady in a stripy hat, married to a rich husband, whose children had attended the most expensive private schools, she forced the media to redefine her as a battling meritocrat who had raised herself by hard work from a humble provincial background." Campbell's story is always compelling, his research meticulous, and his sweep of the political skulduggery of the 60s and 70s masterful. Margaret Thatcher is an absorbing story of the creation of a modern political myth. --Jerry Brotton

Review

"The best book yet written about Lady Thatcher." -"Daily Telegraph" "A fascinating account. Campbell's research is as exhaustive as it is meticulous." -"Observer" "Thorough, scholarly and fair-minded." -"Independent on Sunday" "A searching and beautifully written volume." -"Independent" "An exciting narrative...A triumph." -"Spectator" "From the Trade Paperback edition."

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By hbw VINE VOICE on 4 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
Mrs Thatcher once told a TV interviewer that one of her girlhood ambitions had been to become an actress. As Campbell shows, there's no evidence to support this claim, although, paradoxically, it may be the best clue we have to understanding the "real" Margaret Thatcher.

Grocer's daughter, schoolgirl, scientist, lawyer, Tory lady, politician, tigress, milk-snatcher, iron lady, housewife-superstar or, as, many Americans thought, "quite a dame". Will the real Margaret Thatcher, please stand up?

Like his subject, Campbell has done his homework and stuck closely to his brief. No stone is left unturned, no claim unquestioned and no fact unverified. The result is a detailed and well-balanced account of Margaret Roberts' journey from the now legendary corner shop in Grantham to steps of Number 10.

The focus is very much on Mrs Thatcher herself. Current events, politicians and family are only mentioned inasmuch as they affect her personal and political development. Whilst this gives the book a strong narrative feel, it assumes some background knowledge of post war Britain. Readers who weren't around at the time or are unfamiliar with that era's politics may find that some of the minor players merge into an amorphous mass of men in grey suits (although, come to think of it ...)

A good solid five-star read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Oct. 2004
Format: Paperback
This well-researched book covers the life of Margaret Thatcher from her birth and her childhood in Grantham to her election as Prime Minister in 1979. Her youth and education are dealt with in the chapters Dutiful Daughter, Serious Schoolgirl and Oxford Tory, whilst the chapter Young Conservative recounts the story of her first job, her marriage to Denis Thatcher and her first spirited election campaigns in safe Labour seats.
The birth of her children, her life as a mother and housewife and her legal studies are discussed in chapter six: Superwoman. This chapter concludes with her stunning victory in the Finchley constituency in the 1959 election. The next two chapters describe her life as a backbencher and a junior minister. Between 1964 and 1970 with the Conservatives in opposition, Thatcher held many different portfolios: junior spokeswoman on pensions, housing and economic policy and member of the shadow cabinet for power, transport and finally education.
After the Tory victory in 1970 she was education secretary for more than three years. The Conservatives were defeated in 1974 and the next year she was elected leader of the opposition, the role dealt with in the chapter of the same name. The exciting election campaign of 1979 is covered in the chapter Into Downing Street, which also deals with the beginning of her long and glorious reign as Prime Minister.
The text is filled with quotes from newspapers and people who played a role in her life. The author has gone to great lengths to be as thorough and meticulous as possible; the research cannot be faulted. Furthermore, Campbell manages to capture the mood of the times very well in his analysis of British history and politics and succeeds in making the detail interesting.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jimbo on 6 Feb. 2003
Format: Paperback
John Campbell has produced an extremely insightful biography, and although it is the first volume, contains some of the best analysis about Thatcher ever written.
Taking as its' basic premise the fact that she claimed to be so indebted to her father, he assiduously looks into her life and ideology prior to 1979 to see if this statement stands up to repeated scrutiny.
Although in this sense it is somewhat of a revisionist account, Campbell is scrupulously fair to Thatcher. He analyses her strengths fairly, and succeeds in producing what must be one of the last partisan biographies to have been written about her. Whilst her claimed links with the past are found wanting - the main thrust is that she manipulated her past to gain political advancement, he does succeed in explaining how she became to dominent political figure of the late 20th century. As a politics student who did not live through the time, it was interestign to see how the perceptions of her altered as time passed, and how she built up her image following her election as Leader of the Opposition in 1975.
One can only hope that Campbell's book on her period in Government is as balanced and as scrupulous as this volume.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Campbell's book is extraordinarily well researched and is an excellent corrective to the extensive hagiography that passes as biography and analysis.Thatcher emerges a woman situated very much in her class and times, negotiating her way through the Conservative party as a lower middle class woman in a male dominated world of privilege. And it makes apparent the intellectual limitations of Thatcher, and how these, unlike her class background and gender, proved no barrier to success within the Tory party. Other people will read the book differently, as its wealth of information supports a multiplicity of ways of trying to come to terms with Thatcher as a person and as a pseudo-mythic figure.

Campbell is perhaps a little to ready to accept uncritically some of the claims that are made about Thatcher and abut the state of Britain during her time in opposition and in power, but that kind of critical examination of the substance of Thatcher's achievement lies outside the scope of a biography, even when it's a political biography. I'd give it five stars were it not for the fact that Campbell is a little too inclined to accept the 'received' Thatcherite account, which we know to be seriously flawed.
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