By Charles Moore
Published by Allen Lane
British politicians have rarely been more controversial than Margaret Thatcher. Fans say she won three elections, defended the Falkland Islands and rescued Britain's economy from unionism and seemingly inevitable decline. Critics accuse her of polarising the nation and ruining lives in working-class mining communities. So divisive was she that even her own cabinet and party revolted against her in the end.
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The reaction to Charles Moore's Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not For Turning (which takes us up to her Falklands victory in 1982) is, perhaps unsurprisingly, also divided.
Moore, a former editor of both The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, has always been a strong supporter and gets off to a good start. The Daily Mail's Craig Brown calls his analysis of Thatcher's personality "a triumph of narrative art and human understanding".
Meanwhile, Anne Applebaum in The Daily Telegraph says, "Moore's great gift is his ability to make Thatcher's story fresh again, and above all to remind us of how odd she was." The Independent's Jane Merrick agrees that the author "offers a fresh, even vulnerable, person behind the mythology".
However, his analysis of Thatcher the politician is more contentious. While Not For Turning is "understated and less partisan than his journalism", The Guardian's Andy Beckett criticises the "slightly sketchy way" that Moore deals with the world beyond Westminster.
He complains that "Moore's politics surface unhelpfully when he caricatures post-war Britain as in steep decline". Merrick adds that "there is very little criticism of her policies". The net effect is an "official, Establishment-backed, and largely uncritical version of a very controversial figure".
Yet The Economist thinks the book "really takes off with Mrs Thatcher's election as Conservative Party leader in 1975", as the author "brilliantly reconstructs the drama of those years". Moore also "reminds the reader of how big the stakes were in everything from industrial relations to the Falklands war".
The downsides to Thatcher's governing style are also picked out. Early on her aides "sent her a memo castigating her management style" and even in the 1970s "the seeds of her self-destruction were already apparent".
The book ends less than halfway through her time in office. The story of her political decline and eventual ejection from Downing Street will be told in Moore's sequel. The Economist will be among those snapping up a copy: "It is not often that you can say of a 900-page book that it leaves you wanting to read more. But in this case it is true."
Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not For Turning by Charles Moore. Allen Lane, £30.
Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.
He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.
Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.
As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.
Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri
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