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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition - A Biography of Boris Johnson
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on 28 December 2012
I enjoyed this book. I really do not like Boris Johnson at all and I was interested in how such a character has come to have so much power....I have not changed my opinion of the man since reading this. I still do not like him and if anything he is worse than I thought.
I think the author remained balanced throughout and gave an unbiased view though. She explained him pretty well without passing on her own opinion . She obviously has done a lot of research and it is an interesting read. My only criticism is that I would have liked to have heard about how he came to be such a star of HIGNFY - I have always blamed Merton and Hislop for making BJ popular. This was mentioned but not in any detail.
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on 16 April 2017
A very good book about BJ, full of details. Very well written, hard to put down
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on 26 June 2017
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on 3 October 2011
I'll confess, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Labour voter and was aghast when Boris Johnson beat Ken Livingstone to become Mayor of London in 2008. Indeed, I bought this book precisely because I wanted to arm myself with evidence to help sway those of my friends considering voting for Boris again in 2012. And there's certainly much for anti-BoJo types to quote from here. In particular stories about his 'part-time' approach to the mayoralty, some alarming allegations from a former Met officer about political interference in London's policing, and revelations about quite how much the 'Boris Bikes' and other so-called 'vanity projects' are likely to cost Londoners.

That all said, I can't say the book is overtly hostile to Boris. If I was forced to guess, I'd say Sonia Purnell probably voted for him. There's a certain quality of admiration in her writing. At the very least, she's genuinely fascinated by Boris and her depiction of him as the most cunning, charismatic and complicated character in British life today is hard to deny.

Which is probably why, despite myself, I found the Boris presented by this book so entertaining. His isn't the dull story of uninterrupted privilege and career politics that Purnell seems to believe David Cameron has enjoyed - although that's not to say Boris isn't privileged. There's much wit, roguish behaviour, and just plain bad behaviour to be enjoyed here. And some of that behaviour is so bad you could be forgiven for wondering, 'How can he ever have become an MP, let alone Mayor after that?' But, as Purnell argues convincingly, his carefully crafted public persona - Boris the Buffoon - acts as a Teflon shield that allows him to get away with it.

Personally, I could have done with less about Boris's supposed philandering and sexual appetites (if the French disqualified men from public office on the grounds of sexual infidelity there'd be very few left to run the country!). However, that's still a relatively small part of a big, very thorough book which should be essential reading for anyone who professes to care about London - whether you love Boris, or loathe him.
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on 22 December 2011
Outwardly, Boris Johnson seems like one of Britain's least-subtle politicians - brash, blustering and always aware of his own abilities.
What Sonia Purnell's biography makes clear is that there is significantly more to Boris than would appear from his hyperactive TV appearances.
Purnell paints Boris as a complex figure, whose startling self-confidence is at times offset by deep character flaws: selfishness, a seeming inability to forge intimate relationships, recklessness and occasional moments of startling bad judgement.
Purnell has clearly spoken to people who know the man well and has provided a valuable look into his formative years.
The sections on his early career in journalism - from Brussels with the Telegraph to his time at the helm of The Spectator - are particularly interesting. Purnell has interviewed countless Boris confidantes and detractors who provide a well-rounded look at the Mayor.
The tone of the book suits its subject - stentorian at points, knowledgeable, but light and heaped with lashings of mocking poison.
Laced with anecdotes, the book provides new insights into the country's most famous politician in every chapter.
One memorable scene in the section on Johnson's 2008 Mayoral campaign has his election supremo threatening violence in a well-heeled restaurant.
Things get more serious when the book reaches Boris's first term as London Mayor. Purnell has found people willing to spear Johnson for perceived failings in the way he has run London. At times the picture painted of City Hall under Boris is as ramshackle as the man himself.
Although Johnson's womanising may be tried and tested ground, there are enough new elements to keep those sections interesting - though other chapters contain the real revelations.
Just Boris is written with elan and, like the best biographies, is a rollicking good read that fizzes as it switches from admiration of Boris, to borderline contempt.
The book will have - if he's had the temerity to read it - made very uncomfortable reading for the Mayor, and that can only be a good thing.
With an election against Ken Livingstone to fight and the Olympics, 2012 will undoubtedly be very Boris-centric. For those wishing to prepare themselves for the Johnson onslaught by getting a measure of the man, there is no better way that racing through a copy of Just Boris.
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on 18 December 2011
Just Boris is an entertaining and enjoyable read. Supplying the reader with information on Boris that most probably never knew (Boris' real name is actually Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson) I was engaged from the start. Just Boris characterises Boris as cunning and charismatic - and the author admires and criticises her subject with a judicial eye.

Sonia Purnell's research is extensive, her writing style accessible.

Just Boris is authoritive and, if updated, will prove the definitive book on its subject for years to come.

Highly recommended.
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on 28 October 2011
The cult of personality is alive and well and living, not just in North Korea, but also in central London. 'Just Boris' illuminates a driven, complex, contradictory personality who is well on the way to conquering a great many more of us with well-practised smoke and mirrors. Sonia Purnell's forensic examination of the man would would be PM reveals, with humour and considered analysis, something of the real man behind the engaging clown Boris Johnson would have us believe he is. If only Johnson believed in himself, he might have made it. Purnell tracks the rise of a man who has had an astonishingly privileged bike ride through the corridors of power. For all of her revelations, Purnell is as intrigued as the rest of us by one of the most engaging yet baffling politicians in decades. An excellent read.
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on 7 February 2017
Generally speaking this was a fine effort giving a thought-provoking and erudite analysis of Johnson's career to 2012.
However the book suffers on two fronts.

Firstly, some subjects are simply overdone with there being way too many childhood/Eton; Oxford candidacy; Henley MP selection; and Spectator affairs anecdotal evidence. Most readers would probably get very bored as Purnell has often used 10 stories when 2-3 woud have sufficed.

Secondly, the book comes to a half-baked juddering halt with no mention of the outcome of the 2012 Mayoral Election. Analysis of Johnson's career to that juncture is also very sketchy and lacking.

I would give the book 10/10 for research, 9/10 for prose and keeping the reader engrossed, 9/10 as well for the author's knowledge of the subject matter, but sadly only 3/10 for analysis and conclusion.

Overall, a very good effort but too much tiresome detail in places and not enough evaluation of the impact/role that Johnson played in his first 4 years as London's first Tory Mayor.
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on 3 October 2011
It's always disturbing to learn about the murkier side of any politician's life but this time it's also hilarious and fabulously shocking. Intellect has no doubt propelled Boris a long way but it's his blind, ruthless ambition that really comes through in the book.
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on 28 February 2012
Really, really enjoyed this book. Purnell writes so extremely well with such verve and energy. I'm usually biography phobic as I find them so dense with far too much extraneous detail. But 'Being Boris' was a brilliant read and entertaining. Whew and thank-the lord. A writer who can be rigorous but make it fun. Thank-you from this reader.
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