32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor (Hardcover)
I have read some biographies before but I am not a big biography geek. Nevertheless, I decided to give this one a try and I have to say overall I truly enjoyed it. It's a big book and I was worried at first it would take me a long time to finish, but once I got to the chapters on Jack Straw's ministerial adventures, I was captivated and without realising it, I was reading page after page. The first four chapters start with the author's childhood and the years he spent in NUS, ILEA and working as a researcher. They describe how he slowly started getting involved in politics from an early age and how his family drama and his troubles at school formed some of the opinions that shaped the rest of his life. These first chapters give a more human portrayal of his persona; as the reader, you no longer just view him as a minister in the cabinet who made important decisions, but also as an individual with an interesting story, a man who had a strange relationship with his father, ran away from school various times and went through the terrible experience of losing a baby. All these anecdotes eventually lead to the time when Jack became an MP and from that point onwards, his image reverts back to the what most of us will be familiar with.
His time as the Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary is also fascinating. As the story progresses, at times describing the passage of a bill and at other times indulging in some Labour party intrigue, I experienced mixed feelings, both of interest and frustration as I was getting drawn into the complexity and gravity of the events unfolding around him.
The story is set not so long ago and the events should still be fresh in people's minds, allowing them to rethink back to when they actually occurred. The book also brings an extra dimension by divulging the thoughts of one of the key members of the cabinet. I gained an interesting insight on what was happening behind the scenes at that time, particularly around the Iraqi war. Whilst I do not agree on a personal level with the decision, Jack Straw's comments on the Blair and Bush administrations are particularly captivating, evidencing the fact that nothing is ever what it seems from the outside
The last pages of the book are a commentary on modern Britain, where Jack Straw expresses his opinions on what reforms are needed for the Commons and what he would do if he were in charge. I would have personally preferred if he had ended the book by summarising what he's learned from his experiences and giving an account on what he feels are his most important achievements and failures.
Overall, I'd recommend the book. I think it's gripping, it's easy to read (even without knowing much about politics), entertaining and it even contains a bit of humour.