The 1980s was the revolutionary decade of the 20th century. From the Falklands war and the miners' strike to Bobby Sands and the Guildford Four, from Diana and the New Romantics to Live Aid and the 'big bang', from the Rubik's cube to the ZX Spectrum, McSmith's brilliant narrative account uncovers the truth behind the decade that changed Britain forever - politically, economically and culturally.
©2010 Andy McSmith (P)2011 Audible Ltd
Perhaps. There was a lot in there.
When Sir Geoffrey Howe, a man memorably compared to a sheep, sat through a public tongue lashing and humiliation from Thatcher, and then walked out in a remarkably memorable manner, setting up Thatcher for the coup de grace.
They were interesting, but one dimensional. This is a history, not a novel. If pressed to choose, I'd say Michael Heseltine or Nigel Lawson held tremendous potential, but theirrole was limited to the narrative.
The destruction of ancient mining and industrial communities. A development that we are only beginning to come to appreciate the full implications of.
Despite the impression the above comments might give, as a child of the 1980s, I enjoyed this book - a touch of Adrian Mole, with just a sprinkling of William Shirer or Gibbons. I had it in my wishlist for 3 years and am glad I finally listened to it.
The book covers many topics about
The life of the British people from race riots, politics , cost of living , poor vs the rich, music, pop stars etc. well written With an excellent narrator
"So close and yet so far"
I had my childhood and early adolescence through the 80's. I remember lots of the events happening, but didn't really understand why. This is a great listen. I didn't find it particularly biased, but informative and extremely touching. So many things occured in the 80's that shaped the world we live in today. I often found myself welling up whilst sitting on the train and had to get my sunglasses out! It's almost unreal to think that things we simply would not tolerate these days were the norm only 30 or so years ago.
Whatever your age or your memories of this time, listen and be amazed.
"I really needed this to fill my gaps of knowledge."
I was born in 1982 and left the UK in 1986 for nearly 20 years. I needed this book to fill the big gap in my understanding of British history during that 1980s period. So many events of today make sense now. Silly it my sound, but I never thought of the movers and shakers of today having their roots in the 1980s. Gordon Brown is mentioned, as is Tony Blair. The Wapping strike and Rupert Murdoch breaking the unions. Unions in general, which are now making a bit of a comeback into the national news. It covers culture, history, economics, fashion, women's history, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite) history, racial history, sports history, and more. Events that are now having anniversaries, like the Hillsborough disaster, are covered. Ultimately, McSmith brought everything together so I could see how it fit together and how it lead to our present situation in the UK.
I found the narration excellent and the book itself fascinating. One of the most valuable books I've read/listened to in several years.
"so thats what it was all about"
I was 13 when the winter strikes hit, I was lucky enough to attend Live Aid (albeit in the catering dept) and although I remember so many of these events and participated in some of them, it was fascinating to hear it all again as a full grown adult. Its a really well written and interesting narrative, without really displaying any particular bias. So many names and events that make sense to me now and how much our country has changed because of that time. It does leave you wondering if the current government will ever learn from history. Being a product of a sink school, that was a victim of many cuts I was disappointed that there is very little discussed on education, I was a resident teenager during the first Tottenham riots, my parents eventually bought their council house and moved well away, as did I as soon as possible, I recall the Miners strike on the news, the Falklands, the IRA bombings the fab music, and it covers cultural change really well, but overall this is more a history book than a political one - a must read for anyone studying contemporary UK.
"Wallow in 80's nostalgia"
Just spent a very happy time wallowing in 80's nostalgia, brilliantly conceived by Andy Smith and with excellent narration by David Holt. As entertaining as it is informative.
"OK, but felt a bit lightweight at times"
I'm a big fan of the Dominic Sandbrook books, which bring to life the social history of the 1970s. So I thought I'd progress on to the 1980s with Andy McSmith's book.
Whilst "No Such Thing As Society" is an interesting listen, I think I've been spoiled by the detail of the Sandbrook books. "No Such Thing As Society" felt a bit trivial and lightweight in comparison.
Of course, some would argue that was exactly the thing which characterised the 1980's!
"What the movie "The Iron Lady" should have been"
For all those who were sorely disappointed at the recent movie "The Iron Lady" (a 90-minute movie that had about 10 minutes about Thatcher and the 80's), this book is for you.
It covers much more than just Margaret Thatcher; it truly covers all the 80's and what a breadth of coverage and perspective.
It explains the changes that occurred in the 10 years before Margaret Thatcher was elected (with hugely informative examples on inflation), to explain the context of her election in 1979. It explains how the UK in 1979 was a place that would be "alien" to most of us (banks did not do mortgages; building companies did, and they did not offer bank accounts, only 33% of Britons had a bank account, most salaries were paid in cash, credit cards were almost unheard of, waiting to get a phone line was 3-6 months, ....) and then contrasts how the UK had changed totally by the end of the 80's.
I gave this book 5 stars because anyone interested in the subject matter should read (listen to) it. However, it is not perfect.
The author has a clear anti-Thatcher, anti-Falklands bias. Yet, although the bias is palpable, the information is so detailed and well presented that one does not mind the bias (which has the merit of being honest). I think that what make the author's bias palatable is the fact that he pulls no punches when describing those he obviously cares for (Bob Geldof, the Labour Party, the Miners' Union) making his barbs at Thatcherism even-handed.
The author also seems to be a specialist of obscure "musicians" whose main claim to fame is anti-establishment lyrics, rather than any musicality, and this emphasis does make the chapter on the music of the 80's overly long and, past the halfway point, uninteresting.
The reader of this audiobook was fine (I cannot really remember what he sounded like, which must be a compliment)
"Thatcher unmasked and nicely contextualised"
I was drawn to this book because I often quote Thatcher's phrase "no such thing as society" as a logical extreme of neoliberal thinking. The book is a great listen if you are interested in Britain of the '80s and a bit of the '70s and '90s, the origins of Thatcherism, and its lasting influences.
An excellent review not only about the Tories, but also the broader range of political issues faced by the UK in this period. McSmith is entertaining with his stories and quotes related to Thatcher's rise within the Conservative party, her relationships with her ministers, the shift to the centre by Labour, the emergence of the European Union, and the interface of the West with the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc. McSmith also sheds light on how Thatcher dealt with (and suffered from) political violence and resistance associated with the Irish Republican movement, her relationships with newspaper moguls like Murdoch and her campaign to smash the British trade union movement including assaults on Scargill and the Mineworkers. Race relations also get a look-in as do national-local government relations and her efforts to smash left wing local governments including that of Ken Livingstone in London.
The political insights are complemented by interesting, often amusing, insights into British popular culture - the British comedians, television shows, music, celebrities and the royal family. McSmith has a nice turn-of-phrase, provides contextual insights and asides, along with witty anecdotes and quotes. It's never boring.
It's a pity Audible hasn't introduced music into its recordings or the ability to flash up the quote, headline or image being described on the recording. Next generation listening perhaps...
Having lived in post-Thatcher Britain I found this quite compelling listening despite its droll and distasteful right-wing centrepiece...
I really enjoyed this book as it brought to life recent history and an era that I lived through vividly.
Hard to compare with anything else.
I recommend this to anyone interested in this fascinating period which was dominated by the extraordinary presence of Margaret Thatcher. Whether you love or hate her is irrelevant
"Great listen for an eighties child"
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audio book. I was a young child in the eighties and it's fascinating to hear what I lived through - even if most of it passed me by. This period still resonates today - and in a few more years I'm sure the next generation will idolise it much like we do the sixties. My only gripe, and the reason I docked a star, is that it is heavy on Thatcher and politics. I am a big politics fan, so it feels strange for me to criticise that. I think the eighties were about more than one lady.
Yes it was entertaining
No, I had enough of this biased history
If the value of a history book is measured by its perceived impartiality, this book only has anecdotal value. Nothing, absolutely nothing, Thatcher’s government made was pleasing to the author -which is fine with me- but he makes his displeasure so obvious that at times is irritating. This reaches a peak when he seems to justify the presence of Soviet spies within the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament…
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