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We need to talk about dominic
on 24 April 2012
It is, they say, much easier to write a long book that a short one. And this book is very long indeed. It is only 14 months since Dominic's last, 500 page book (Mad as Hell) and 18 months since the 700 pages of his book on the first half of the 1970s (State of Emergency). Unsurprisingly, the whole book a rather rushed, cut and paste feel. For example, he has about 8 references to Harold Wilson's drinking when PM, all repeated without any added value from Bernard Donoughue's Downing Street Diaries. What would be more useful is one section of this, with an appraisal with other evidence of whether it was a problem and affected his performance as prime minister. There are many more examples of similar poor structure and repetitious and derivative use of sources. Elsewhere the book lapses into listing.
This is a shame, since in many ways Sandbrook's approach is right. Unlike many previous histories, he does not simply concentrate on what the political elite were doing but takes a broader look at culture, political movements and tries to dig down into people's everyday lives. However, this is too rushed and too underwritten (it is very well written, I mean analytically underwritten) to pull it off.
Less important is that I disagree with the general narrative of decline and the attempt to pin this on the trade unions, that is a matter for debate.
I was so frustrated by Sandbrook books that I set up a blog to critically assess this one ([...]). I am not sure if I can publicise it on Amazon, but the address is [...]