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The King Of Sunlight: How William Lever Cleaned Up The World Paperback – 28 Feb 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi (28 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552163910
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552163910
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 367,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Written with wit and verve, managing to be both inspirational and a cautionary tale" (The Times)

"Macqueen stuffs the book with amusing detail, humorously told" (The Telegraph)

"Well-researched biography ... the course of his narrative is lucid and precise" (The Spectator)

"Wonderfully entertaining, constantly reanimating the period and the places with wit and cunning. No other biography in recent years has left me so wanting to meet its subject" (Mail on Sunday)

"A thoroughly entertaining rummage through the life and times of one of Britain's most eccentric businessmen, it will leave you smiling, sweet-smelling, and ready to storm the history round of your local pub quiz" (Sandi Toksvig)

Book Description

A journey through the life of one of Britain's most successful businessmen and most eccentric Victorian philanthropists.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Jun. 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a great-granddaughter of Mary Lever Tillotson, sister to William Hesketh Lever, aka "The King of Sunlight", I was delighted to be given this book as a "special birthday" present earlier this month. Before opening the cover, I had no idea how highly entertaining and fascinating it would be. Leaving aside the family connection, Adam Macqueen's descriptions of a clever, down-to-earth and visionary entrepreneur had me in fits of laughter, although in contrast, a chapter relating what is thought to have happened to William's younger brother, James, was sensitively handled and in many ways a contrast to much of the rest of the book. Some of William Lever's late 19th and early 20th Century ideas of the "duties" of an employer would be regarded as nothing less than expected in the 21st Century, and this book gives a witty and perceptive insight into his life and times. In my childhood, I felt that over the years, my family had been blessed with somewhat more than its fair share of what some might label "eccentrics". Thanks to Adam Macqueen's book, I feel others now have an insight into one of these, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys being entertained whilst reading a biography - and challenge anyone who thinks biographies are boring old tomes to say this of "The King of Sunlight" once they have read it. I found it a hard book to put down.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By I. Curry VINE VOICE on 16 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The premise of this book is the story of a soap company that would eventually become Unilever and its founder and directing mind, William Lever. It doesn't sound promising, but, like many obscure corners of history that have been illuminated by fascinating, lucid and readable biographies and histories, this is the window to a wide and startling vista.

I came to read the book after hearing excerpts of it on BBC Radio 4's `A Good Read'. It sounded interesting in the round, but what really made me pay attention was the detail on Rivington. Rivington is a village in the moorland above Chorley and Bolton. It has medieval tithe barns, a quaint village centre, strange follies and the most amazing terraced gardens, ornamental lake and Roman ruins.

As a child I was taken there for Sunday walks, climbing the stone steps to a strange grotto that, in my mind, was permanently winter. The waterfall would be petrified, frozen solid in mid-tumble, and the landscape glistening as a pallid sunlight reflected from a thick and universal spread of frost.

In short it seemed a magical and strange place. So I was much obliged to the author of this book for providing some illumination as to how Japanese gardens and intricate terraces had been transplanted to this windswept and remote corner of Lancashire.

And once I had started reading the book it was clear that not only would my interest in a local beauty spot be satiatied, but that this was a wide-ranging and interesting book which, although having William Lever and his soap business as the central focus of attention, also covered the British Empire, the Liberal Party, old age pensions, garden cities and much more.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Clare Topping on 11 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
The King of Sunlight: How William Lever Cleaned Up the World

This is by no means an academic biography, and is an easy, somewhat lightweight read. Whether you enjoy it or not depends on what you want to get out of it.

The author is obviously fond of his subject, but was unable to make me feel strongly about him. It is a potentially interesting subject, but I was left with no strong desire to learn more about Port Sunlight or William Lever. I found this book a little too insubstantial and shallow for my liking, which was a bitter disappointment as I had really wanted to like it, having heard it recommended on Radio 4.

It reads more like a novel than a "serious biography". The writing style is very relaxed, and informal, more like a conversation than a work of non-fiction, but still does not really leave you very enlightened about the man behind Port Sunlight.

If you are just after something different to read about a different subject, then this is possibly the book for you. If you want something to get your teeth into that will leave you wanting to learn more about the history of Port Sunlight or the motivations of the man behind it, or even about the end of the Victorian era, then I suggest you carry on searching.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By book mallard on 30 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
The book takes you through the life of William Lever starting from his middle class background in Bolton. He soons becomes a larger-than-life character, starting life as a salesman. He becomes sympathetic to the lot of the working class and, after developing Port Sunlight, he goes on to address socialist interests in Parliament and beyond. His international and Scottish influences are fascinating.

A good read for aspiring entrepreneurs!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would recommend this as a great read to learn of the vision and determination of the founder of Lever Brothers which became Unilever, a multinational corporation with enormous global reach. All started by two men, sons of a man with a drapery shop. Amazing how William Lever lived, sleeping outdoors at all times, adventuring far into Africa to find original ingredients to make good soap, and how he shared the corporate wealth with the employees raising their standard of living. Winning tips for how to successfully lead a truly great business. Well written by Adam MacQueen.
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