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on 30 April 2013
It's probably helpful to say at the start that my political views are very different from those of Margaret Thatcher and, from what I know of his journalism, Charles Moore. However, I take my hat off to Mr. Moore for a first-class biography (well, Volume One, anyway) that is worthy of the importance of its subject.

I was hopeful of a good biography, but was conscious that Mr. Moore hadn't written a book before. It is to the credit of Margaret Thatcher and those around her that Charles Moore was chosen for this task and given such freedom (to a degree that is highly unusual in an authorised biography). Yes, he's clearly an admirer of Mrs. Thatcher. However, he brings his trademark independence of mind to the role. Once one accepts the glaring and inevitable Conservative political bias (with a big gulp, in my case), one finds his judgements invariably both thoughtful and thought-provoking. We get a wealth of detail that both humanises and deepens his subject, but he doesn't shy away from less positive aspects of Margaret Thatcher's character and actions. There is also an admirable humility in his tendency to leave the reader to make up their own mind about so much of what he reveals. This occasionally applies even when those revelations are jaw-dropping.

The diligence in research is impressive. There are some elements of luck, such as the treasure-trove of letters from Margaret Thatcher to her older sister. However, often one makes one's luck through persistence and hard work. The writing is rarely as good as Mr. Moore's journalism, but that's understandable given that he's writing in a (for him) new and more tightly-constrained format. The occasional infelicity, repetition and typo doesn't detract from a fluid and engaging narrative. I even enjoyed the occasional sly flashes of humour. I've read other biographies of Margaret Thatcher (along with many other political biographies and related accounts from this period) and yet here I learned much that was new and encountered fresh perspectives on key events. I came away feeling well rewarded for my time. Volume One is as good as I could have expected. I'm looking forward to Volume Two.
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on 1 June 2013
Whatever your views on Margaret Thatcher there are 5 reasons to buy this book:

1. It is extremely well written and never less than interesting.

2. It provides the context for the events in which decisions are made, but concisely.

3. It provides original material in the form of Mrs T's comments on various documents relating to important political decisions, which in themselves tell us a lot about her and her style of managing and controlling - indirectly and critically, mainly negative and often rude.

4. It includes comments from former ministers, political advisers and civil servant, some from written sources and some from interviews all pulled together in relation to events.

5. It is balanced. It gives credit to others for aspects of Thatcherite policy, in particular Geoffrey Howe. If you did not like Mrs T before - hectoring, arrogant, know-it-all - you will not change your views. If you liked her determination and stubbornness and grasp of the demotic, you will not change your view.

Personally, I did not like her hectoring and bullying style. But I found the way Moore wove together the material - her views, others views and facts - masterful.
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on 13 September 2013
Like her or loathe her, Margaret Thatcher was the major political figure of late 20th century British politics. This biography is a highly readable account of her life and career to the Falklands conflict. Although an authorised biography, Charles Moore's account is far from an uncritical look at Mrs Thatcher both as a politician and a person. The book quotes in full a damning review of Thatcher by a senior civil servant and provides some interesting insights into her approach to those "left behind" as her life moved on. For example, her coolness in respect of her mother and, to a lesser extent, her father, once enmeshed in politics.

Moore's writing style is relaxed and yet comprehensive in its scholarship. The volume of background material referenced by footnotes is enormous. Scene setting required for an understanding of how the Thatcher approach developed and was implemented on the back of her opponents disorder in 1979 is deftly done. Moore does not shy away from the fact that Mrs Thatcher was extremely fortunate both to get away with errors of policy in 1980/81 and to have such weak opposition both within her own party and in the Labour opposition of the era.

Critical accolades for the book are well-deserved. Anyone with even a passing interest in Britain in the postwar era should read this book.
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on 11 May 2013
Charles Moore has painstakingly researched every source and has had privileged access to his subject, her family, her colleagues and members of the Civil Service as well as international political figures and officials. The result is a meticulously researched thorough biography: It is certainly not a hagiographic account of her career up to 1982. There is respect and admiration but he cannot disguise his inability to like her.

Although no detail has been left out he has an excellent style that makes for easy reading

There are no other books that give so detailed account of how the UK reached its economic low point in 1979 and how Margaret Thatcher prepared to turn round the country's economic fortunes albeit without much strategy or coherent planning. She relied .more on conviction than intellectual analysis.
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on 25 April 2016
This is a fantastic bit of research into ‘Thatcheriana’ – sadly, it is not a great read.

If you want an informative read, then read her own autobiography. If you want to read a great book, Hugo Young’s contemporary biography is a classic in how to write a biography. If you want a quick read, there’s a host of journalistic books on her life. The most fun read is Carol Thatcher’s ‘Under the Parapet’ biography of her Dad.

Charles Moore is a very successful journalist, and as such, a good wordsmith. On top of that, he has done a phenomenal amount of research (80 interviews in the US alone for the two volumes were carried out by his US assistant, himself carrying out hundreds of interviews with new insights from all the key players you could wish for, and he has clearly worked through paperwork, in the style of the subject of the biography). Sadly, this is not a biography with a gripping narrative, though the research material is there.

It is an excellent reference book, and my guess is for this reason it will stand the test of time. Advice to the reader – flick through the bits that bore you. He has left out the majority of his research, as a good journalist is trained to, but the book is still far too long (or too short if readers are looking for a full five volume account of her life).

Like any excited journalist with new material, the writer cannot resist using too much of it. In comparison to the vast wealth of publicly available printed material on Thatcher, the letters she wrote to her sister are a treasure trove of new material. We see too much of it. Similarly, his access to her Private Secretaries gives a very detailed Private Secretary view of a series of detailed meetings when the outcomes and what the agreed policies tell us about Mrs T are what we want to read in a biography.

As perhaps the most ‘marmite’ figure in post War UK, the writer’s Thatcher worship can be difficult for the somewhat less enthused reader. He may think she was beautiful, and obviously her pre-marriage boyfriends (here, new information is given just the right amount of detail in an interesting biographical way) would no doubt share his view, but this is certainly not a consensus view. Striking, yes. The only women, frequently interestingly attired, in a room full of grey suits, yes. The object of passion for many Tory back-benchers and the military (especially later on), yes. A female Cecil Parkinson? This surely a subjective view of an admiring biographer.

It is very difficult to write a biography of such a towering figure that appeals firstly to readers who ‘weren’t there’ wanting to find out about the history of the period, secondly to Thatcher lovers and also to the curious who simply lived through Thatcherism and want to know more. Perhaps the author did too much research and got simply exhausted when it came to the difficult bit of writing it all up.

I did not expect to begin reading ‘anti-Thatcher’ and end up ‘pro-’, but I did expect insight, and, more than that, I expected a new emotional relationship with the subject of this book which, after reading it I failed to get I am afraid.

(I feel terrible writing this, as you can feel the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into writing it, and his love for both the project and subject, as you read the extensive notes about writing it and the bibliography).
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on 14 August 2014
I have never read a political biography that is such a page turner as this. I cannot praise it too highly. I have read her autobiography and several biographies but this is in a class of its own. Moore has done a great deal of researcrh and has had access to previously unavailable source. It is interesting to see the preconditions for writing this authorised biography. The lady was not to see any of the text and it was not to be published while she was alive. Lady T comes across as a formidable person. She advanced in a political career when prejudice against women was formidable. She was the Iron Lady who cried. I lost count of the number of times she shed tears. Often portrayed as ruthlessly uncaring, here we see a leader who cared about people, especially the military who risked their lives. One remarkable fact that emerges several times is how little things have huge consequences. It seems she was only nominated to stand as candidate for Finchley as the constituency chairman switched a couple of votes in the ballot. A Irish republican MP wanted to keep Callaghan's government in power but was pressurised by his own people not to vote and so came the general election triumph of the Conservatives. But the really thrilling chapters are the last two on the Falklands conflict. The verdict is that no-one else would have had the determination to see it through against the odds and yes there was a good military reason to sink the Belgrano. Lady T is a Marmite character. You love her or hate her. Moore is no hagiographer but it is obvious that we both share in admiration for a great woman. I anticipate with pleasure the second volume.
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on 4 June 2013
I'm only half way through this official biography but it is rivetting - meticulously researched and well written. Not at all dry and boring and it just shows in detail what and amazing character Mrs Thatcher was from a young age. She was extremely feminine, played the piano and loved dancing. What an extraordinary achievement it was for a woman, from any background, but especially a grammar school girl from the English provinces, to climb the greasy pole of politics right to the top, with a razor brain, sheer hard work and inspiration - and to be re-elected three times. She restored Britain's standing in the world, liberated the populous from the tyranny of the Trade Unions, encouraged all to aspire, took on the Argentinians and generally showed us all what courage is.
I'm already looking forward to Volume 2 although I really wish she had retired after 10 years, and wasn't dumped by her own party.
nevertheless she has shown that a woman can make it to the top and make a difference - but they have to be better than the men, and she was.
RIP.
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on 9 June 2013
This book will join the ranks of the great classic political biographies.You do not have to love Thatcher to be in awe of Moores achievement here.The book replaces all earlier biographies -even John Campbells excellent 2-volume effort -which has held the field up until now!It is obvious Moore is a Thatcher supporter and in general the narrative is broadly supportive of her.However, Moore criticises where he feels it is due and he recognises and illuminates Thatchers faults as well as her strong points.
Two points make the book memorable,
1. The cache of letters written by Thatcher to her sister in her youth.In my opinion these show Thatcher up to be shallow, materialistic ,manipulative and emotionally cold.Moore could easily have supressed them as unflattering to his subject but he gives them full emphasis.You also find out about boyfriends before Denis and the incredible story of how she palms one of them, Willie Cullen, on her older sister and they both accept the arrangement and get married.You also get Margarets somewhat unflattering initial impression of Denis.Moore has also found out that (unknown to her) she received the Conservative nomination for Finchley by the electoral fraud of the constituency chairman.
2.Moore writes fluently and in an easyily readable style and even obscure economic theories are made clear in the text.
Buy this book if you have any interest in British politics or history or just in people!Not to be missed!
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on 12 June 2013
Moore handles the subject of Thatcher, a divisive figure in British politics, in thorough and skilful manner. Given Moore's position, I was a little sceptical about how he was going to portray Thatcher, but the account given is thoughtful, critical and insightful. Moore's examination of Thatcher's personal life, her experiences of being a woman in politics and her comments on government documents provides the reader with a more nuanced perspective of Thatcher, rather than the mainstream media interpretation of Thatcher as a conviction politician. Nevertheless, there is simplicity in Thatcher's thinking in relation to socialism, although one does have to place Thatcher within the historical context of the time when leading intellectuals were discussing the merits and demerits of socialism, particularly in the guise of the USSR. What is striking to the contemporary reader is the interpretation of the 1970s and 80s by Moore and other authors covering this period. Overall, this is a good biography and I recommend it to anyone interested in this period of British politics. I eagerly await the second volume.
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on 28 May 2013
This is one of the best political biographies of recent years. It is meticulously researched and offers many new insights. The author is clearly sympathetic to his subject and her ideas but never sycophantic. In fact one of the books strengths is the absence of waffle and jargon in favour of understated but pithy comments.

I spent much of my young manhood opposing Mrs Thatcher's policies in the streets and at the ballot box and the book has not changed my mind about the fundamental issues of that time. But it has deepened my grudging respect for her personal qualities and deepened my understanding of how and why she had such an enormous and lasting impact.

There will probably never be a definitive life of such a controversial leader but this one will take some beating. I can't wait for volume 2.
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