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The Last Diaries: In and Out of the Wilderness Paperback – 3 Jul 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 556 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; 1st Phoenix Edition edition (3 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753816954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753816950
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 310,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The Last Diaries: In and Out of the Wilderness is the final self-revealing chronicle of Alan Clark's highly eventful life and times. The French are eternally amused by the insistence of English newspapers that our politicians' lives must be squeaky clean (after all, they reason, what's a mistress or two?). And certainly John Major's famously ill-advised "Back to Basics" campaign exploded in his face as minister after minister came crashing down in flames as a succession of sex scandals hit the headlines. But one politician always rode above such hyperventilating moral indignation--Alan Clark, whatever his faults (and he would be the first to admit they were legion), was never a hypocrite. When charged with a new indiscretion (such as his famous liaison with virtually the entire female side of a family) he would cheerfully admit it, and even those not sharing his High Tory sympathies would not hold it against him.

Such is the sheer vigour and perception on display here (not to mention the disarming candour--none of that famous "economy with the truth" in these unbuttoned pieces), that it's a considerable cause for regret that this is the last we will have from the late politician. In the great tradition of such diarists as Pepys, Clark delivers a fascinating picture of an era and his place in it. Just a few words of Clark on (for instance) Tony Benn displays Clark's from-the-hip observations: "His mind is so quick and versatile--but the loony prejudice just beneath the surface... the motivation that keeps him active." All those anodyne politicians' memoirs, which strove to be as unrevealing as possible, look even paler next to a document as forceful as this. Whether or not your name is in the index, this is absolutely fascinating reading from a flawed politician who nevertheless makes most of his colleagues--in and out of the Tory party--look uninspiring figures indeed. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

This had a press date of 31 July. Jane did an extremely good event at the Winchester Festival with Ion on 10 July and she will also be attending the Folkestone Festival on 24 September. Ion did an interview with one of his local papers THE LYNN NEWS and the EASTERN DAILY PRESS have also said they will do apiece on the book. Ion has also done interviews with BBC RADIO WALES and KLFM. Reviews have been good: 'It's worth reading just for the pleasure of once more being in the company of this strange but mesmerising man.'MAIL ON SUNDAY'Much of the diary is taken up with Al's decision to leave the Commons in 1992, the publication of his earlier diaries and then his return to politics in1997. But Ion Trewin, the editor, has done a terrific job balancing this - it occasionally seems like ancient history - with Al's other concerns, domestic, motoring, romantic and, ultimately, medical as he faces his death with peevish courage'THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 'These journals cover Alan Clark's politicalcomeback as MP for Kensington and Chelsea five years after his retirement in1992 and end with a touching diary of his last illness by his wife Jane.'SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 'this chronic hypochondriac proved brave and resilent when he became genuinely ill with the brain cancer that killed him'SUNDAY TIMES On theTV dramatisation of the diaries, John Hurt is being hotly tipped to play Alan Clarke. This will go out on BBC 4 first (most likely November) and then BBC2

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jimbo on 17 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
The third volume of Alan Clark's Diaries are as compelling as the previous two volumes and are the equal of, if not superior to, the original volume published in 1993. In and Out of the Wilderness covers the period from 1991, when the initial volume finished, up to his death in 1999, with the final pages comprising Jane Clark's account of the illness that killed him.

The volume features much of the political intrigue that was present in Diaries: In Power - Clark details his final days in government before the 1992 general election, the fall-out surrounding publication of the volume of Diaries and the Scott Inquiry into Arms to Iraq following the collapse of the Matrix Churchill trial. Even better, we are treated to the machinations of life in the Commons after the 1997 general election, at which he had been elected as MP for Kensington & Chelsea. He frequently despairs of William Hague's leadership, and enjoys calculating how he himself could become Leader of the Opposition. What is interesting with hindsight is his firm belief that the Tories failed to make ground by not being right-wing enough, when the accepted wisdom is that it was a retreat to the right that made the Conservative party unelectable. Indeed, this is a debate that continues to this day within the party, especially following Cameron's failure to win an outright majority in 2010.

We also receive insight into his turbulent personal life - the book starts with him enjoying an intense affair that leaves him contemplating leaving his wife, but as he renews his love for her we are treated to (possibly too much) information about his sex life, and the usual slew of indiscretions.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By N. H. Richardson on 27 Oct. 2002
Format: Hardcover
The third and final volume of the Clark diaries opens with Clark on the verge of standing down as an M.P., a decision he characteristically keeps from his local constituency until some three weeks before the general election. Almost immediately he regrets no longer being on the inside of politics - the delights of Saltwood, Eriboll and the "big book" (finally published as The Tories) are not enough, not does he seem able to find the time for themselves he has been promising Jane Clark for years - and he begins to plan his return. Calling on God, whom Clark acknowledges has been more than generous already, to assist, he is, despite the publication of the first volume of the Diaries and the fury of the Coven, Matrix Churchill and the Scott enquiry, returned at the age of 69 as the member for Kensington & Chelsea,that most desirable of seats. Encouraged by what Clark considers to have been nothing short of divine intervention, Clark wonders whether it might not be his final calling to assume the leadership and save the Tory party.
Readers of the earlier volumes will not be disappointed - the fast cars, the women, the money worries, the political gossip and insight are all here. And yet this is, perhaps, a more intimate and revealing volume. Clark's relationship with God and his sense of his own mortality (and Clark did not until the very end realise how little time he had) are much more evident. Indeed it is as if Clark was consciously bringing the reader more into his confidence. The entries for the summer of 1999 when Clark's illness is finally diagnosed, are genuinely moving and, when Clark is too ill to continue, Jane Clark provides her own diary of the final few weeks of his life.
Whatever may be remembered of Clark the historian and Clark the politician, Clark the diarist has provided an unforgettable contribution to our literature.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. T. Rogers on 26 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
During the Matrix-Churchill trial of the early 1990s, Alan Clark avoided perjuring himself under cross-examination by defence Counsel by confessing that - while Minister for Defence Procurement in a previous government - certain of his parliamentary answers regarding machine exports to Iraq had been "economical with the actualité". This last volume of Clark's diaries gives some account of that sordid episode, along with Clark's general thoughts and travails during his period out of Parliament, that is, 'in the wilderness'.

Clark quickly regrets leaving Parliament in 1992. His decision to stand-down as an MP was strange (most MPs will fight an election even if they fear losing their seat) and I find his explanation pretty lame and unconvincing. I cannot help but wonder whether in giving up his seat Clark was being prescient about Matrix-Churchill and feared that he might suffer even greater consequences if he was still sitting in Parliament. I suspect that the whole truth about that episode, and its consequences for the UK government's later policy towards Iraq, has not been fully-revealed, but for Clark the consequence was the diminishing of his political career. Clark enjoyed his French bon mots, so he may in this regard appreciate Zola's aphorism, which began: Si vous taire la vérité...but you could say this odd turn of Clark's life was testament to a saying liked and well-used by Clark and taken from Brooks's Club: ACHAB, or Anything Can Happen At Backgammon.

One of the redeeming features of the Alan Clark in these diaries is his loyalty to a kind of truth. There is public truth and then there is private truth.
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