38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
A worthy biogrpahy of a worthy PM,
This review is from: Gladstone (Paperback)
This is the second book of Roy Jenkins that I have read, having greatly enjoyed his biography of Winston Churchill. Initially I felt that I had read the books in the wrong order - in the introduction to Churchill there are many references to this previous work - how he had thought that Gladstone was the greater Prime Minister until he had written about Churchill's life, but gradually settled down to enjoy this highly readable biography.
There were two things that immediately struck me. The first was the extreme religiosity of Gladstone, especially in regard to sin he felt from his rescue work. He was a man who continually struggled to reconcile his faith to his actions, and through his meticulous diary keeping we are allowed to peer through a large window into his soul, as opposed to the speculation that often litters biographies.
The second was his troubled relationship with Queen Victoria. Whilst I had previously been aware of her preference for Disraeli, I had not been aware of the adverse reaction she had to almost anything that Gladstone did as Premier, especially in later years. The snub she delivered to him regarding a peerage upon the close of his final premiership was particularly vitriolic (and amusing reading!), and the feel of the book is that his struggles were as much with Victoria as with Benjamin Disraeli.
Jenkins succeeds in stripping away completely the layers of Gladstone. He goes into the right amount of detail on the key events of his life, and also critically evaluates them. Jenkins is not in slavish approval of his every action or personality trait. His prose is occasionally witty but always well constructed, though the Latin and French phrases often reveal the pompous character of the author. He succeeds again in drawing parallels with other historical figures and also in drawing on his own vast experience.
The Grand Old Man emerges well out of this. No Prime Minister of politician ever has an entirely blemish free career. Jenkins leaves the blemishes in for all to see, and the decision about the extent to which Gladstone is the greatest PM depends on how you judge his faults against his successes. Jenkins makes the case for the prosecution and the defence in an interesting and lively way in a book that is well worth investigation.
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Initial post: 5 Dec 2011 12:19:54 GMT
" Rickers " that lived in the eastern townships of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Alberta and British Columbia provinces of Canada (1777 to 1957) - review does not apply to this book!
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