Friday, November 01, 2013

Book Notes: An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain (or 60 years of making the same stupid mistakes) by John O' Farrell

"Margaret Thatcher was a non-conformist in every sense of the word. There was Methodism in her madness", writes John O'Farrell as he reaches 1979 in his witty, wry look at British postwar history.

O'Farrell doesn't write history in the Horrible Histories school of "Ooh weren't people in the past gross, and stupid", but more like an edition of Private Eye covering six decades rather than just a fortnight. O'Farrell is really a satirist, whose acidic asides at the newsmakers of the day are most often read on his website .

This "Utterly Exasperated History" contains a lot of good history, a bombardment of jokes and the humorous intermingling of the factual and the absurd. All this is mixed together with a solid dose of O'Farrell's personal left-of-centre political opinions which he lobs into the mix for good measure.

The book begins with Germany and Italy falling under the allure of the Fascist dictators with straight arm salutes, while when Oswald Moseley tried the same in England - everyone laughed at his sweaty armpits; he ends the bod saying, "And so a story that began with Britain almost crippled by war loans in 1945 ends with the country even deeper in debt six decades later..." In between, all the great events are covered, Macmillan, Suez, The NHS, Profumo, The Sixties, Ted Heath, The Oil Crisis, The Cold War, Wilson, Callaghan, Major etc etc.

Not a book to be taken to seriously (despite the vein of sensible observation running through it), but definitely one with plenty of laughs.

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