- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Verso Books (2 Sept. 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1781682909
- ISBN-13: 978-1781682906
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 23.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 112,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else Paperback – 2 Sep 2014
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WINNER OF THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR BOOKS 2015
“James Meek’s superb book exposes the perversities, hypocrisies and failures of privatisation. Meek is a writer of fiction as well as a journalist, and it shows: he crafts beautiful and vivid passages that turn what could be a dry subject into a highly readable study.”
– Owen Jones, New Statesman
“James Meek's brilliant book, bracing in its detail and sweeping in its scope, makes clear just how central privatisation is to the story of contemporary Britain: some of it will make you sad, some of it will make you furious, but you are guaranteed to be left feeling that you understand this country much better.”
– John Lanchester, author of Capital and Whoops!
“Do yourself a favour: read Private Island and find out what has really happened in Britain over the past 20 years.”
– John Gray, Guardian
“One activity in which Britain leads the world is privatisation. From Thatcher to Cameron, prime minister after prime minister has flogged off our public assets at rock bottom prices to the private sector. The result has been massive returns for investors and middle men, poorer services for the public – and a downgrading of our entitlements as citizens. All this is detailed by James Meek in a book that stands as one of the most powerful critiques of the mess that is Britain’s economy.”
– Aditya Chakrabortty
“[A] devastating account of the privatisation dogma of the past 25 years... As demolition jobs go, this can hardly be bettered.”
– John Kampfner, Observer
“An energetic and colourfully told polemic against privatisation.”
– Financial Times
“If you have a taste for historical irony & absurdity, you'll love this book.”
– Francis Wheen, Mail on Sunday
“You don’t have to be…excessively sentimental about the public service ethos to find the story Meek tells here genuinely shocking.”
– Jonathan Derbyshire, Prospect
“One of the country’s finest writers.”
– GQ Magazine
“Entertaining, vastly intelligent.”
– New Yorker
“This is the definitive account of how so much has gone and continue to go wrong with Britain’s institutions. Don’t read it all at once – it’s too depressing.”
– Joan Bakewell, New Statesman (Books of the Year)
About the Author
James Meek is a Contributing Editor of the London Review of Books. He is the author of six novels published in the UK, US, France and Germany, including The People s Act of Love, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Ondaatje Prize and Scottish Arts Council Award. We Are Now Beginning Our Descent won the 2008 Le Prince Maurice Prize and The Heart Broke In was shortlisted for the 2012 Costa Prize. In 2004 he was named the Foreign Correspondent of the Year by the British Press Awards and he contributes regularly to the Guardian, New York Times and International Herald Tribune. Website: www.jamesmeek.net
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Top Customer Reviews
We are used to Tory ministers becoming directors on big companies and making fortunes for very little work. However on page 164 he names senior Labour members who left the cabinet and benefited in exactly the same way eg. Alan Milburn and Pat Hewitt.
I liked the way Meek uses a person's personal history to clarify how things have changed over the last 50 years eg. with Pat Quinn in the Housing section. This shows how things were for her parents and how they are now. It gives you a deeper understanding of developments over time. I think it was important to personalise things otherwise it would have been just loads of statistics and charts which would have been very dry and boring.
page 120 irony. Thatcher promised us a Britain with more independence from Europe, but her privatisation program has resulted in the opposite. eg.Read more ›
At first I felt that Meek was spending too much time looking in detail into specific small cases rather than taking a broader view, but by the time you've read the whole book, which is extremely readable, you have gained the big picture nonetheless, and much of the detail is important and interesting. His concept of the privatisation of taxation is interesting, and shows how we are all effectively financing the profits of private companies or public companies in other countries. Essential reading for anybody concerned about the corporate takeover of Britain.
The book looks at six areas: the mail, the railways, the water utilities, the electricity utilities, the NHS and housing, and gives a detailed examination of each.
First the good parts: the chapters on the mail, electricity, water and housing are the most effective, but even these tend to get bogged down in too much detail. It's fine that Meek uses individual case studies to bring out the horrible reality of what privatisation is doing, but these do rather go on too much, giving you rather more detail than you really need. It's very much a journalistic approach - which is fair enough, considering that Meek is a journalist and not an academic, but you still have to wade through (and, in my case, skip read) too much detail. To take just one example, we get far too much on Pat Quinn and Doreen Kendall in the housing section, and although initially interesting, I found this rather tedious: do we really need to know that Ms Kendall is a fisherman's daughter who was brought up in Milford Haven who got her school leaver's certificate before moving from Pembrokeshire and so on and so on? This added nothing for me, and felt more like stuff added to pad out what's already a relatively slim volume at a little over 200 pages (for almost £13!) - and I think that's the real problem with the book.
Now the less good parts: the chapters on the rail privatisation and the NHS are much weaker than the other four.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Present for a friend, so I haven't read it, but he says it was good.Published 5 months ago by stella coulson
We are in deep trouble now we have 5 more years of self serving moron rule. Lookout for the public pocket being further plundered by the those in power and for the benefit of their... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Gazzo4u
This is an important book. Written for the layman. Do not read if you get angry quickly....Published 19 months ago by Rob Austin
Excellent. And timely. I'd read of the pieces before in The London Review of Books, but collected together it paints a grim picture of incompetence in the British governments' care... Read morePublished 21 months ago by K. R. Watson
Meek's journey from believer in the redemptive power of capitalism at the fall of the Iron curtain, to angry dissector of the sale of everthing and everyone, is dark and... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Amazon Customer