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The last diaries: in and out of the wilderness: 3 [Hardcover]

Alan Clark
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Oct 2002
Alan Clark's acclaimed Diaries end a month before his death in 1999. After the first volume (30 weeks on the SUNDAY TIMES bestseller list), THE TIMES wrote: 'The best diarists, from Pepys and Boswell, to 'Chips' Channon and Harold Nicolson, have been the souls of indiscretion. But none so indiscreet as Mr Clark. For its Pooterish self-assessment, for Mr Toad's enthusiasm for new things, for Byron's caddishness, for its deadly candour, it is one of the great works in the genre.' This third volume begins in 1991 with Alan Clark contemplating quitting as MP. Life at Saltwood Castle, his home in Kent, hangs heavy; then comes the Scott inquiry and the Matrix Churchill affair, the publishing of the first volume of the Diaries, which leads 'the coven', a family of former girlfriends, to sell their story to the NEWS OF THE WORLD. The diaries follow his ongoing efforts to return to Westminster. As ever there is much, much more: his long-suffering wife Jane, his family, an affair that threatens his marriage, and, not least, the country life. This volume closes with the tragedy of his final months when he is diagnosed with a brain tumour, but he keeps his diary until he can no longer focus on the page.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; Hardback edition edition (10 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297607146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297607144
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.6 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 630,130 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

Review

The serial ran in the TIMES from 5 October to 9 October and was excellent. They also ran a huge and very good interview with Jane Clark in the Weekend Section on 5 October. C4 NEWS did an excellent interview with Jane down at Saltwood which ran for 6 minutes on 9 October - a fantastic piece of publicity. Michael Portillo reviewed the book on FRONT ROW (BBC Radio 4) on 11 October, an interview with Nigel Farndale ran in the SUNDAY TELELGRAPH on 13 October and an interview with Alan's eldest son James ran in the DAILY MAIL on Monday 14 October. Jane did a brilliant interview on WOMAN'S HOUR (BBC Radio 4) on 15October and was interviewed for BREAKFAST WITH FROST(BBC 1) on Sunday 20 October. The agent also sold second serial to THE MIRROR which ran on 19 Octoberand then another extract ran in the SCOTSMAN too The diary stories have beenplentiful with ones in THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, INDPENDENT ON SUNDAY, THE HERALDand EVENING STANDARD so far and the reviews will kick off this weekend. There was also a big piece in the GUARDIAN on 18 October on diaries, which mentioned THE LAST DIARIES and mentions by Simon Hoggart in his GUARIAN column, Bill Deedes in his TELELGRAPH colum and Nigel Farndale in his SUNDAY TELEGRAPH column Reviews have been excellent : 'This is simply the best book I have readsince - well, since the last Clark oeuvre.'Steven Norris, THE TIMES 'More than anything else, in the end THE LAST DIARIES is a love story. And like it's theme it will endure'Graham Stewart, THE SPECTATOR Alan Clark was not a good man, but he was a dazzling diarist. He writes self-pityingly: 'I suppose I will be remembered for the Diaries.' He will, and for this one most of all. A grand love story eclipses a political career.'Sarah Sands, THE DAILY TELELGRAPH Ion is doing the following radio interviews - BBC RADIO LEEDS, BBC RADIO KEN

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving conclusion to an extraordinary series 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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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and moving 23 Oct 2003
Format:Paperback
The majority of The Last Diaries is Clark's typical brand of frank political observation and insight, focusing on the years from the fall of Thatcher, through his retirement, to his reselection as MP for Kensington and Chelsea in 1997. This part covers some of the most interesting recent history of British politics with the fall of the Conservative party and the rise of New Labour.
The end of the book is the terribly harrowing portrayal of Clark's illness, as his hypocrondria, a feature of the previous two diaries, is suddenly vindicated. The portion his wife, Jane Clark, writes when Alan becomes too ill to write is one of the most poignant pieces non-fiction I've ever read.
A superb complement to the previous two diaries, with the three in total comprising the most thouroughly readable, enjoyable and insightful political diary of the last 30 years. An absolute must.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Jimbo
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anything Can Happen At Backgammon 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A political diary.
An excellent read, full of political gossip, and sadly with the death of the author towards the end of the account where his wife Jane finished the " story "
Published 3 months ago by R E Shepley
5.0 out of 5 stars Do you think you might likeThe Last Diaries? - you will, read on
Highly recommended, you can't help but love the man and his view of his world is a gift to his guests .Alan Clark it was a pleasure to visit.
Published 4 months ago by Louise Fuller
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Very moving at the end and seemed such a waste and very sad given his constant focus on his own health
Published 5 months ago by VK
1.0 out of 5 stars A Great Disappointment
The slovenly jottings of a dysfunctional,depressive,hypochondriac relating his Pooterish domestic and career ups and downs.
Shades of Mr. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gift
I bought this as part of the set for my husband who has been wanting to read them for some time.
Published 15 months ago by G. Braund
5.0 out of 5 stars unputdownable
I thoroughly enjoyed an earlier diary and so got this one. I am amazed by the honesty of this man; I cannot think of ANYONE that has or had the courage to write so honestly about... Read more
Published 22 months ago by J. Ware
4.0 out of 5 stars Charts a sad decline
This set of extracts from the Clark diaries comes from the years immediately following Diaries: In Power, and what a change in tone they reveal: in the first book, he lives life... Read more
Published 24 months ago by L. Hennessy
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangely Compelling
This is not the best of the three volumes, but because it is the last one, and an ending, you will inevitably find yourself wanting it. Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2008 by Andy
2.0 out of 5 stars Clark reveals his own weaknesses
Like many diaries, especially those written with complete openness and honesty, this book is of interest not so much for the events it describes but as an insight into human... Read more
Published on 9 Jun 2008 by P. Matthews
3.0 out of 5 stars Public Bombast And Private Anguish
Alan Clark had a lot of faults, yet to this reviewer seems to have been at root a decent person under the layers of dross. Read more
Published on 27 May 2005 by Ian Millard
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