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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 October 2013
After the recent biography by Charles Moore (vol 1)one might wonder what is the point of another book about Margaret Thatcher, especially so soon. In fact Jonathan Aiken demonstrates in his latest book there is a point.
His book is a far more personal account of Margaret Thatcher. The reader is given a ring-side seat to view her strengths and weaknesses.

Aitken's key aim is to describe what she was like as a person and prime minister, especially what she was trying to do and why, and to assess the consequences. He was a member of her cabinet and for a while very close to the Thatcher family-for 3 years he dated Caroline Thatcher before he ended the relationship. His political career ended when he was jailed for perjury (he has written two splendid books about his time in prison).

In this account Aitken describes warts and all the deceased character. She could be charming, kind yet rude, abrasive and cold. he argues, as have others, that her achievements were major, the Falklands, ending the miners strike, and getting President Reagan and Gorbachev to meet and talk.

He is very critical of Howe and Heseltine for their attack on Thatcher which eventually led to her downfall. He quotes her press secretary as saying:'probably the most tactless woman I have ever met in my life'. Aitken says she was never a fan of cabinet government (neither was Blair or Brown), 'consensus had no appeal for her'. At one cabinet meeting she told Howe (foreign secretary) 'your paper is twaddle. complete and utter twaddle'. Understandably, such outbursts in front of other ministers, no matter how accurate, caused dismay and anger. After her retirement from politics she lambasted Howe and co as traitors. Even her chosen successor, John Major, did not escape her sharp tongue.

Aiken says she was a towering figure that polarised, and still does,public opinion. Like other recent accounts (Moore, and Harris) he believes she changed the course of politics and government in her country for at least a generation. A Britain that was in decline rejoined the ranks of powers with influence in the international arena. She boosted the economy, restored our military credibility, and reinvigorated our diplomatic authority. She, he argues, gave this country pride and purpose again.

Aiken says she often said she made up her mind about people within 30 seconds, and '99 times out of a 100 I am right'. Her father told her never to go with the crowd. Never, never. She said she always followed that advice in politics.
Aitken tells us about her upbringing, the great influence of her father, the strained relationship with her mother, her unhappy time at school and, for a time, at university. She never seems to have had any fun as an adolescent. Her first steps in politics is described, her very happy marriage, her children, time in opposition, then as secretary of state for education, and then winning the leadership and becoming the occupant of No 10.

This 700 page book is an honest account, warts and all, of a very remarkable politician. It is balanced and fair. It is a shame that her opponents are still for ideological reasons unable to adopt the same objective stance.

As a true insight into Margaret Thatcher this book is unlikely to be bettered.
Highly recommended.
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on 11 December 2013
This was a present to a Thatcherite, I hate the woman, possibly the most destructive influence this country has ever encountered.
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on 27 February 2016
In his introduction to his second volume of the authorised official biography of Margaret Thatcher, Charles Moore relates that at the many talks he gives on Lady Thatcher, the curiosity of audiences does not focus on the political events of his subject's life, but on her personality. What was she like? Jonathan Aitken knew her very well indeed. He had sixteen years as a fellow member of parliament. He courted Carol Thatcher and remained a friend after his imprisonment until her death. So he is the one best qualified to write on her personality. He is also a skilled biographer. I have enjoyed him on Nixon, Colson and John Newton. If you wonder why Moore not Aitken was given the task of official biographer, Aitken tells us that Thatcher did not want her authorised account published while she was alive and Aitken was not too many years her younger. So much as I have enjoyed Moore's two completed volumes, Aitken is my favourite biographer of the Iron Lady. Moore is more detailed and academic. Aitken, even at 700 pages, is briefer and much more personal. Both authors are admirers, neither are hagiographers. I think Aitken is the more critical but I should cease comparisons as Moore's third volume is yet to be published and the trauma of her removal from Downing Street to be related. After each chapter Aitken reflects on the events and the behaviour of his subject. He is able to give us her great strengths and also her weaknesses. No-one else could have given us victory in the Falklands. Her's was a critical role in ending the Cold War and the break up of the Soviet Empire. Her trades union reforms and subsequent victory in the miners strike changed the country but her intransigence over the Community Charge was a factor in her downfall.Other factors were her increasing stridency over the E.U. and her poor man management of cabinet colleagues, particularly Geoffrey Howe.So the chapters on her removal from office and life in retirement read like a real tragedy, all the more tragic knowing that with better management she could have gone on to win a fourth term.
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on 12 May 2014
I have long been an admirer of Margaret Thatcher and when I read a review of the book I decided to purchase a copy. I was not disappointed for it was riveting.
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on 1 March 2015
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in one of our most remarkable politicians and Prime Ministers. It is an absolute must for any student of British politics over the last 40 years. It's a cracking read and full credit must be given to the book's author Jonathan Aitken for making it so. This book is impeccably researched and written in a way that is both entertaining and illuminating. Although I have read numerous accounts of Mrs Thatcher's life and times, I was often taken aback by some of the different information about her that this splendid book provides.
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on 24 June 2014
I chose to read this biography as it encapsulates the whole life of Margaret Thatcher in one book. Its author, Jonathan Aitken has known Margareth Thatcher and her family quite intimately. In particular, he dated her daughter Carol Thatcher. He has been as well a Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom for 24 years, and a former British government Cabinet minister.

The book is easy to read and very entertaining. You feel you are in the room, witnessing Margaret Thatcher's decision making process. There are also emotional moments when you feel in awe for her courage and steadfast determination.

I particularly enjoyed two specific features of the book. Each chapter terminates with a reflection where the author provides his personal insights on the events described in the chapter or one traits of Margaret thatcher's personality. The author has made over 90 interviews and he intersperses the narration with quotes from close acquaintances. Those quotes provide an insightful perspective on Margaret thatcher's personality.
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on 14 November 2013
It's basically well written and informative. There are flashes of brilliant writing. However, as it develops, the script becomes repetitive. The author repeats many set phrases and descriptions of events that become quite unnecessary; it reads like there's been a lot of copying and pasting instead of cutting - never mind the pasting. More robust editing would make this an even better book to read. Disappointing on that basis.
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on 4 January 2015
(Of course Mrs Thatcher knew the shipyards had to close but Swan Hunter submitted the last, BEST bid yet curiously striked to lose themselves the second order!) Read also Life in the Jungle: My Autobiography by Michael Heseltine on the same subject. I do know Jonathan since I was 8 & came across him again when working for Bryan Cave (international lawyers - the Dutch boss being a great friend of Bettina's late father from after the war so he took a interest in me from my first day) as my boss had worked for Adnan Khashoggi too! See my Profile page for Fayed: The Unauthorised Biography by Tom Bower.
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on 5 December 2013
What an insider portrait of a driven politician! Her utter conviction that she was invariably right seemed to keep her immune from criticism even when this was justified, alienating many of her loyal and effective cabinet. Particularly in later years, this led to bad, idealistic decisions. The description of the atmosphere in cabinet is a revelation - not to be missed.
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on 3 August 2015
Very readable. Aitken is no sycophant, drawing attention to Thatcher's weaknesses as well as her strengths. If you lived through the 1980s it will bring back memories, and also provide fresh information and insights into a period that stopped Britain's post-war decline.
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