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
"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."