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on 8 November 2016
Bought as a present for our son and he loved it very much a great read
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on 21 July 2006
Christopher Meyer has written a very likeable and accessible memoir - concise and snappily-written, and with a liberal sprinkling of wry humour. Not for him the 900 plus pages of so many dry, self-congratulatory examples of the political/diplomatic memoir genre. He has many interesting things to say about both political personalities (statesmen and civil servants) and governing institutions (The FCO, No. 10, etc).

Also, he does not pull his punches when it comes to offering judgements upon the actions and intentions of major political fugures, such as Blair, Straw, Prescott and many other leading New Labour ministers.

His reminiscences about earlier diplomatic postings in both the the US and Germany are informative and amusing in equal measure. In particular, he deftly conveys some of the flavour of both countries' political traditions and bureaucratic traits, and is illuminating on the social and political landscape of the USA west of the eastern seaboard.

The latter part of the book, dealing with pre-and post-9/11 is a riveting read, and provides a balanced overview of US and UK foreign-policy activities in this fraught period. Overall, then, a sharply-written, well-told account of a diplomatic life in both Germany and Washington D.C., packed with interesting anecdotes and comments - sometimes acerbic, sometimes affectionate - about the realities and rewards of overseas postings.
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on 23 March 2007
Don't let the cover deceive you, this is not a book especially concerned with telling a tale about the inner thoughts of the Blair government in the run up to the invasion of Iraq and it's seemingly vain attempts to influence Bush Jr''s decisions. Instead, it is as the category says, memoirs, going all the back to the 1960's when Meyer joined the diplomatic corps. You will find no insightlful analysis of the war or stark protrayal of the way the information was presented to the public but rather a Bill Bryson like read full of ammusing anecdotes of the DC political circuit, my favorite of which is Don Rumsfeld paralysed in a river raft for three days next to a large box of excrement (I'll let you decide on the relation there). I suspect the FCO regarded this book as an 'unacceptable breach of trust' because it describes the kind of toadying flunkies so often seen in governments these days as they really are, as immoral and odius creatures of less than high honour, not becuase there are any great secrets revealed in this book, because there are none. According to the author, most of the secrets he had access to ended up leaked to the press anyway and he complains often that none of his cables on the thoughts of the US adminstration were read by anyone, causing continual stupid questions from those who ought to know better (maybe another 'breach of trust there'). In short, anecdotal and light entertainment, not heavy analysis. If like me, you were after that, chose something else.
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on 30 November 2005
This memoir offers a fly-on-the-wall look at how the British ambassador to Washington experienced events leading to the Iraq war. It contains much of interest, ranging from a couple of sharply-written chapters exploring whether or not the war was inevitable after 9/11, to Meyer's mostly unflattering descriptions of leading politicians. But its main achievement is to be highly readable, making this an enjoyable way to learn something about British-US relations.
Drawbacks: the book feels a bit lightweight, and doesn't explore in depth many of the most interesting themes on which it touches – eg whether UK interests suffer from No.10 Downing Street trying to run foreign policy. Much of the stuff about the loveliness of his wife made me cringe, but might appeal to some readers.
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on 18 June 2017
A self-aggrandising book for Meyer's posterity.

Despite serving as the British Ambassador in Washington pre-post 9/11 era with access to senior figures in Bush's administration, he alludes to his frustration of being kept out of the political loop by Blair if not his inner circle in the planning of the Iraq invasion of 2003. Whether this is a self-serving ploy to distance himself from the Iraq debacle or a dig at insiders such as Alastair Campbell, one can only guess. Nevertheless, Meyer tacitly if not blatantly admires the now maligned neo-conservative agenda post 9/11 including figures such as Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Cheney.

Having read his book, I cannot help but think that as Ambassador with a remit to influence the 'special relationship' between the UK and the US, Blair supplanted him and the British Foreign Office in this respect.

The section on Kissinger's speech at Bohemian Grove though is of interest...
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on 25 January 2006
Although there was a hoo hah when this book first came out I can't see that there is anything within it's pages that is hugely controversial. Meyer certainly doesn't condemn Blair wholesale as a poltician without any merit but as you read the book you do come to the understanding that Blair's political preferences are not the same as Meyers. Nevertheless Meyer was a diplomat and by his account anyway seems to have executed his duties nuetrally and very helpfully for his country.
The book is full of anecdote but hardly any real polticial gossip. He's very carefully to say nice things about almost everyone and if he is disparaging about Blair and New Labour it's nothing we haven't already read in the press. If anything he strives to give a rounded, balanced, diplomatic view of Blair and friends although it is possible to detect a note of disgruntlement that his efforts were not always appreciated by Blair and often suspected. Meyer would not be the first person in public life to feel this way about our current glorious leader - he joins quite a list of disgruntled ministers and back benchers.
My conclusion is that it's worth reading and gives you a fascinating insight into the goings on in Washington during a very tumultuous period. This book is also a good explanation of exactly what amabassadors and diplomats do for us in far flung places.
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on 24 February 2015
Excellent - an enthralling behind-the-scenes view, articulate & "hands-on". Actual description of Special Relationship especially interesting. Local Borders connection.
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on 22 July 2006
I read this book like a novel, finding it hard to put down. Meyer's opinions and observations are trenchant, funny and naughty. He is not a great stylist - no shortage of cliches here - but his story moves along at a great pace and he emerges as a likeable and insightful person. He clearly relies heavily on his second wife Catherine who is portrayed as beautiful, clever, witty and friendly - almost too good to be true. His first wife gets little mention, though his children by her are mentioned several times. Essential reading for anyone disillusioned with the Blair phenomenon (not to mention Campbell etc) and seeking to understand how the Iraq war could have gone so disastrously wrong.
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on 30 May 2007
I am impressed with Christopher Meyer's bluntness on TV after leaving his diplomatic post for the Press Complaints Commission. I expected similar directness in this book but was disappointed. He is frank enough about his feelings about T Blair and clearly doesn't rate his deputy, John Prescott. What was lacking was an incisive critique of the performance of leading Americans at two periods of unique importance. He paints GW Bush in a kindly light but I wanted more insight to the qualities and abilities of those running the most powerful country in the world. It seems most achievements in diplomacy land are made over grand dinners and there are numerous but disappointingly superfical accounts of this dinner and that drinks party. Where is the meat?, I ask. What is so confidential?? In short, a worthwhile book but it could have been so much more.
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on 8 May 2010
An interesting but not explosive book which, having read it a few years after publication, has stood the test of time reasonably well. Meyer has presented it in a tabloid style that makes an easy read. Less appealing is that it jumps around quite a bit and so personalities appear and are then returned to with anecdotes that preceeded their original introduction.
Aside from the Germans, who do not fare well, Meyer is more critical of his British masters than his American contacts, in terms of personality at least. Perhaps this is a reflection of the subtle difference in his relationship with the UK government. In other words he was always HMG's employee whereas to the Americans he was an Ambassador - thus a difference in status and role. I thought he gave an honest account of the lead up the 2003 war which should be given credence for reflecting the political challenges faced on both sides of the Atlantic.
His wife's rise to power was curious. When they first met Meyer's staff advised him to avoid her yet within a few chapters world leaders are championing her very distressing but nevertheless personal cause. Thus this is an intersting insight into the manipulation of contacts for personal gain as one doubts if he'd have acted so industriously for anyone else. Amazingly he expressed dissatisfaction with the then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, for failing to pursue her cause as vigorously as he thought it deserved. As the title implies, curious....
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