An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain: or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always Paperback – 15 Apr 2010
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"An engrossing and agonising read. And fortunately, a funny one too....The best historical harbingers are also comedians" (Independent on Sunday)
"An enlightening run through the last 60 years of British history" (Woman & Home)
"This very readable account of how 21st-Century Britain was made is a roller-coaster of a ride through fashion and fascism, terrorism and television, soccer and sex." (Good Book Guide)
"All history is subjective, while O'Farrell's take is comically so...Will bring a smile to grumpy old men everywhere." (Daily Mirror) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
John O'Farrell is back with his utterly impartial, cantankerous journey through history, bringing us right up to the present daySee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
The humour and the bite sized installments make the book extremely easy to get through and it is ideal reading for when you only have a short window of time ie on the toilet or commuting to work.
I learnt a lot reading the book and O'Farrell's ability to inform and entertain simultaneously is brilliant, altho the odd joke missed the mark for me and the brand of comedy is quite lowest common denominator rather than being very edgy.
This book is excellent for anyone with a sense of humour and an interest in UK history. Be aware however that even more so than the last book this has very definite Labour/left wing bias and O'Farrells views are liberal. At times he gets on his soap box a lot more than in the last book but I did not mind this as to my mind he was usually talking a lot of sense.
The reason this sequel as dropped a star and doesn't get the perfect 5 is that I feel O'Farrell devotes too large a portion of the book to the ins and outs of government. I would have liked more social/cultural comments in its place. However, this is still excellent and I can see myself rereading this several times in my life. O'Farrell definitely deserves praise for these very accessible history books. The fact I flew through both of them and they are both 400-500 pages long speaks volumes.
Sadly the humour in this book isn't as funny as in the previous book - although still quite amusing in places. And the other thing that probably has an impact is that British post war history quite frankly isn't that uplifting, it's basically one long story of steady decline.
However, for a good, quick overview of modern British history it is worth reading. So go for it, you won't regret it.
O'Farrell provides a fairly readable account of events up to approximately 1970, although to describe it as rip-roaringly funny would be several steps too far. As an historian, I was looking for this book to provide me with more than a list of events. What analysis there is, is basic. The thing which I do like about the earlier sections, however, are the anecdotes - the theory that Wilson knocked ten years off his age, or the story of Hume catching an egg thrown at him, kept me mildly entertained.
Unfortunately, after this moderate opening the rest of the book falls away dramatically. I've read "The Best A Man Can Get" and "This Is Your Life" and saw jokes used in these being slightly altered, then dusted down and put in as "amusing asides" - the point that "anyone who used the letter 'Q' without a 'U' was considered fair game" is the same joke as one encounters towards the end of "This Is Your Life". It's not as funny second time around, either.
O'Farrell's glib dismissals of anything which doesn't fit his particular theory, and his ridiculously pro-Blair stance, then destroy any serious attempt I could have made at finding the book either informative or funny. He claims to be a left-winger, but Harold Wilson comes out of this dramatically worse than Tony Blair - despite the fact that Labour in the 1960s and 1970s was closer to socialism than they have been recently. This oversight may be because O'Farrell's main comedy technique is to poke fun at the past by comparing it to the present, which sadly detracts from the work as historical analysis as well as comedy. The final few chapters read like the autocue of a Labour Party conference c. 1999. It's surprising that O'Farrell takes this approach, but frankly I think he's not quite worked out what he thinks politically. Any serious socialist - or indeed, any seriously politically-minded individual - would find it hard to reconcile Blair with either socialism or the Labour Party's political heritage.
For smugness, however, you can't beat his shallow and meaningless claim that "those who complain about American values dominating the globe should do their best to survive a while longer to see how they like it when the Chinese are running things". It's the equivalent of saying, "those who dislike being poked in the eye with a stick should do their best to survive a while longer to see how they like it when they're being punched in the kidneys as well". Just because one thing has occurred that could be better than the second thing, it needn't mean that the first thing is good. Losing £50 is better than losing £100, but it would be even better not to lose anything at all - a point he either ignores or doesn't understand.
If you want to read the FUNNY political views of a left-wing comedian, I seriously suggest putting this book back and taking something by Mark Steel. If you want to read a history of politics in post-war Britain, there's no shortage of alternatives either.
A massive disappointment.
I'd recommend this to anybody interested in recent British history and a 'left to centre' sense of humour.
Beware, Thatcher doesn't fare well. Then again, labour isn't given an easy ride either.
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