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110 of 139 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Salacious, Opportunist but Annoyingly Compelling, 15 July 2010
This review is from: The Third Man (Hardcover)
Lord Voldermort, played in this novel by Peter Mandelson, takes over the muggle world and rules for 13 years before Harry Cameron's wizard and muggle coalition ousts him in a battle for control of the Ministry of Magic.

Ok - that is not what this book is about at all, but the self styled Dark Lord does manage to do the dirty on his former friends and blow the lid off the open secret about the breakdown and growing rivalry between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown during the New Labour years. Unsurprisingly, Tony Blair is reportedly livid at this expose, but perhaps moreso because the frank honesty here will dampen enthusiasm for his own political memoirs. Maybe Tony Blair is most annoyed that Mandelson beat him to it.

The book is well written, frank and attempts to be honest. It covers a whole lot more than the Tony/Gordon spats, starting earlier and ranging more widely. But it is also obviously (being a political memoir) heavily coloured by the experience and mind set of Peter Mandelson himself. The thrice disgraced politician styles himself as the Third Man in the New Labour marriage, and who can dispute that interpretation when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown felt it so important to keep landing him with plum jobs in Government at home and in Europe?

This book is self reflective too. Someone as politically astute as Peter Mandelson would be bound to write in a self effacing manner that ought to win over less cynical readers. More cynical ones might feel that he just wants to sell books and knows how not to annoy his readers.

But then it comes down to this: who buys these political memoirs? Who really cares? All the really salacious details are already appearing in newspapers, and do we really discover much about the man who is Peter Mandelson in this carefully crafted book?

I think the answer is yes - we do. A little. Also, even though so much of this book will appear in print elsewhere, it is an annoyingly addictive read. Annoying because we know that Mandelson is just out to make a quick buck. Better histories of New Labour will appear by less partisan political observers (although they will use this book as a primary source no doubt). But in some ways this story is almost as good as reading about the dark days of Lord Voldermort, even if - unlike Peter Mandelson - you will be cheering for Harry Cameron and Nick Weasley in the end.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Jul 2010 19:06:23 BDT
What does this mean? -- "This book is self reflective too. Someone as politically astute as Peter Mandelson would be bound to write in a self effacing manner that ought to win over less cynical readers."

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jul 2010 19:52:11 BDT
Ges says:
Got me too. Sounds good but does it mean anything sensible ? Perhaps the Book is of a similar style !

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jul 2010 21:00:21 BDT
Sir Furboy says:
What I mean by "Self reflective" is that the author reflects as much on his errors as his success. He admits that he resigned in a wave of embarrassment. He points out places he made mistakes, and when he speaks about how he should have intervened more between Brown and Blair, he gives the impression that he is suffering under a sense of failure at having not done more to prevent the ensuing breakdown. But my point about the cynical reader is this - he would say that, because to say anything exulting and self congratulatory, whether he feels it or not, would just play poorly with his readership.

Not that he is entirely free of self congratulation. But I feel he was very careful to underplay himself. When he speaks of how he felt as he was actually the one making the big decisions for the first time, for instance - there is a sense of humility that is not obviously false. Readers will make up their own minds about it, but that will perhaps be determined by how cynical those readers are.

Talking about Gordon Brown, and his being drawn into government once more, he says "We had come to understand each other again. We respected each other. We liked each other." Now if he really respected and liked Gordon Brown after all that went before (and some of it seems pretty nasty), then that is quite something. But I do wonder whether that was put there because that was the right thing to write politically. One would be foolish to think there is no spin in the way Mandelson presents himself in this book.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jul 2010 21:05:09 BDT
Ges says:
Very well explained.Thanks. I shall read the book.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jul 2010 21:23:24 BDT
Sir Furboy says:
You are welcome. Apologies for not making it clearer in the original review - I was aiming for something short, witty and pithy and clearly did not quite manage it!

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jul 2010 01:15:37 BDT
Got my copy this morning just got one to finish off and i'm ready for reading it and i have to say i'm looking forward to it thanks for the review

Posted on 17 Jul 2010 17:08:52 BDT
Great review. I have bought and began reading the book and agree that it is well written. All I have to do is echo your own comment; "who buys these political memoirs? Who really cares?".

Clearly you do

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jul 2010 20:57:08 BDT
Sir Furboy says:
Touché

And thanks for the comment.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jul 2010 14:42:00 BDT
Red on Black says:
Excellent review sir furboy - well done

Cheers R o B

Posted on 19 Jul 2010 16:46:20 BDT
Great review, really enjoyed it! Thanks!
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