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Margaret Thatcher: Herself Alone Vol III Reviews

Margaret Thatcher: Herself Alone Vol III by Charles Moore

Margaret Thatcher

The Authorized Biography, Volume Three: Herself Alone

Charles Moore

4.36 out of 5

12 reviews

Imprint: Allen Lane
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 3 Oct 2019
ISBN: 9780241324745

The final part of Charles Moore's bestselling and definitive biography of Britain's first female Prime Minister, 'One of the great biographical achievements of our times' (Sunday Times) How did Margaret Thatcher change and divide Britain?

  • Daily MailBook of the Week
5 stars out of 5
17 Oct 2019

"Her demise was — as this outstanding, hugely readable biography shows — pure Shakespearean tragedy. The very virtues that made her great were also her vices. Inevitably, hubris led to nemesis..."

Her demise was — as this outstanding, hugely readable biography shows — pure Shakespearean tragedy. The very virtues that made her great were also her vices. Inevitably, hubris led to nemesis...

Moore concludes that the manner of her fall was a disaster which created ‘an unforgettable, tragic spectacle of a woman’s greatness overborne by the littleness of men’.

As for the lady herself, the shock of leaving Downing Street, her home for the past 4,227 days, was immense. Moore draws a poignant and painful picture of what he calls ‘the lioness in winter’, shorn of her power, claws clipped and utterly lost.

Reviews

5 stars out of 5
Benjamin Schwarz
12 Nov 2019

"...a work for the ages: It will be the font from which every serious appraisal of Thatcher and Thatcher’s Britain draws."

With ethical and scholarly discipline, Moore, a political columnist of a decidedly right-wing cast for The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator (and formerly the editor of both conservative publications, as well as The Sunday Telegraph), has produced a scrupulously evenhanded work. His use of evidence, absorbed from vast archival sources and hundreds of interviews, is punctilious, his judgments measured, his wit dry and sympathetic, his prose classically balanced. This sonorous, authoritative biography makes no empty claim to definitiveness. But it is a work for the ages: It will be the font from which every serious appraisal of Thatcher and Thatcher’s Britain draws.

3 stars out of 5
2 Nov 2019

"The third volume of Charles Moore’s biography is poignant but weak on her legacy"

Although he is dealing with ground that has already been well-trodden, Moore, because of his meticulous research and vast range of sources, adds depth and colour to just about every aspect of what, by any measure, is one of the most remarkable political lives of the 20th century. For me, however, the most interesting (and occasionally moving) chapters are the 130 pages devoted to her life after she left office.

3 stars out of 5
1 Nov 2019

"one is struck again and again by the way in which Moore’s account is slightly skewed, often by omission"

For all the virtues of his biography, I am worried by the widespread view that Moore has provided the ‘definitive’ account of Thatcher’s career. Moore complains that Thatcher’s words have often been taken out of context. But the fact that many of the documents he uses and transcripts of interviews he conducted are not available to other researchers means that we are rarely sure of the context in which the quotations here should be placed. He is ostentatiously even-handed in the broad lines of his account. He admits that Thatcher was often the author of her own misfortunes. He disapproves of her campaign to prevent man-made climate change, but he describes it as carefully as he does her anti-European interventions, of which he approves.

5 stars out of 5
Allison Pearson
27 Oct 2019

"With perfect timing, Charles Moore has brought her back to life. And what a life it was"

Charles’s elegance of mind is matched by a moral purpose which is serious, but never solemn. Undoubtedly, he knows a vast amount about politics, but it was English literature he studied at Cambridge and his distinction as a biographer lies in a novelist’s grasp of character allied to a magpie’s eye for telling detail... As Establishment forces continue to thwart Brexit, we are badly in need of Margaret Thatcher and her lonely courage. With perfect timing, Charles Moore has brought her back to life. And what a life it was.

4 stars out of 5
25 Oct 2019

"he shows us all the evidence we need to make our own judgments on others"

Moore tells all this skilfully, and with sympathy for most of the protagonists. He could perhaps have kept his old journalistic instincts a little more under control in the footnotes... But these are second-order cavils. He becomes a fine historian when he describes the extraordinary skill with which Thatcher used her position with Reagan and with Gorbachev to help protect both in different ways from their own fundamentalists...  And where his orbiter dicta on some others are not always fair ... he shows us all the evidence we need to make our own judgments on others...

5 stars out of 5
Philip Hensher
18 Oct 2019

"This is a magnificent political biography, which takes its place next to Robert Blake’s Disraeli and Robert Caro’s Lyndon Johnson on the highest level."

This is a magnificent political biography, which takes its place next to Robert Blake’s Disraeli and Robert Caro’s Lyndon Johnson on the highest level. It is a huge literary challenge to make sense of lives of such public complexity: the topics of engagement must be separated out into their own discrete narratives, but an overall forward movement must be conveyed. Though the biographer can devote separate chapters to Northern Ireland, ERM questions and South Africa, these subjects would have piled upon the prime minister on the same day and in the same red boxes. Moore does a superb job in conveying, towards the end of Thatcher’s time in office, the rioting in the streets, the resignations, the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the return of double-digit inflation, until the parallel narratives of themes subside into the single chronological story of betrayal and sacking. It is extraordinarily compelling.

  • The TimesBook of the Year
4 stars out of 5
Daniel Finkelstein
12 Oct 2019

"The final part of this great biography tells how Mrs Thatcher’s political instincts deserted "

Moore’s Margaret Thatcher is one of the truly great biographies. Throughout the three volumes it has been comprehensive and subtle, breaking new ground while being surefooted on familiar terrain. He provides a portrait of Thatcher — her anxiousness and her certainty, her strength and her frailty — that is surprising and fresh while still convincing. This volume completes a historical masterpiece.
 

4 stars out of 5
9 Oct 2019

"...a Westminster drama that is compelling and emotionally raw despite the fact that many readers will know the key scenes already"

Moore conveys brilliantly the sense of the walls closing in: first slowly and erratically, with regular apparent reprieves for Thatcher, and then very fast. As her official biographer, and a famous journalist and rightwinger, he has had access to more verbal and written sources than probably any other historian of Thatcherism, and he uses them to build a Westminster drama that is compelling and emotionally raw despite the fact that many readers will know the key scenes already. Some parts have a novelistic quality rarely found in the careful pages of political biographies.... (a) disappointment is this volume’s treatment of her life after Downing Street. Almost a quarter of a century is wrapped up in fewer than 120 pages, and with few revelations. Herself Alone is a sad, suggestive title, but the book’s intention is signalled more accurately by its cover: a flatteringly unlined and commanding portrait of Thatcher taken in 1991, before her decline really set in

4 stars out of 5
Dominic Sandbrook
6 Oct 2019

"Moore’s portrait of her final years, when she was overtaken by dementia, is so exquisitely judged that even the most glacial Thatcherphobes may find themselves melting"

Moore’s portrait of her final years, when she was overtaken by dementia, is so exquisitely judged that even the most glacial Thatcherphobes may find themselves melting. To a great extent she lived in the past: in one oddly moving passage, her granddaughter Amanda recalls how, when she was five or six, Thatcher read her a bedtime story before diverting into a little lecture on the Falklands: “Did I understand why it was important for the UK to reclaim its territory? Did I understand why troops had to stay behind even after the war was finished?”...As her mind faded, she ended her days as a touchingly childlike figure, fond of poetry, hymns and cats. On her last night on Earth she watched Songs of Praise and looked at pictures of puppies. In its way, perhaps it was not such an inappropriate way to bow out. For as Moore’s mighty volumes have shown beyond doubt, the Iron Lady was human, after all.

5 stars out of 5
5 Oct 2019

"a definitive biography brought to a Shakespearean close"

Because Moore had access to papers that were not open to other researchers, this book is full of revelations that force us to re-evaluate our prejudices about Mrs Thatcher, from both Right and Left political viewpoints. Far from being a covert supporter of the apartheid regime in South Africa, as the Left has alleged, she began campaigning publicly and privately for the release of Nelson Mandela in 1984.

4 stars out of 5
Julian Glover
4 Oct 2019

"The final part of Charles Moore’s trilogy on Mrs Thatcher is informed and superbly written"

The challenge in writing a book such as this is that we know how it ends and really, that’s the bit we want to read. Moore’s detailed, pacy and fair telling of the days which led to her downfall would make a stage drama. She chose a useless, drunk, sexually predatory MP as her link with backbenchers and he duly let her down (“He’d send me out for vodka in the middle of meetings,” recalls one witness of the campaign to save her job).

If a lot of this is already known from the many memoirs that have been written, then Moore at least does a fine job of bringing the story together and making it fresh.