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April 2014 Non-Fiction Book of the Month.
The 1990’s - the last decade and already how far away it seems, some of the attitudes, the fashions and the politics make it seem a distant time, older and wiser, we’re glad to have survived. This attempt to catch the 1990’s and its affect on Britain is largely successful and in its way a triumph. Especially good is the knitting together of high politics and low culture with everything in between and at over 600 pages a long, deliciously detailed trawl through a decade and a bit.
Like for Like Reading
Austerity Britain 1945-1951, David Kynaston
When Margaret Thatcher was ousted from Downing Street in November 1990, after eleven years of bitter social and economic conflict, many hoped that the decade to come would be more 'caring'; others dared to believe that the more radical policies of her revolution might even be overturned. Across politics and culture there was an apparent yearning for something the Iron Lady had famously dismissed: society. Yet the forces that had warred over the country during the 1990s were to prevent any simple turning back of the clock. The 'New Britain' to emerge under John Major and Tony Blair would be a contradiction: economically unequal but culturally classless. Whilst Westminster agonised over sleaze and the ERM, the country outside became the playground of the New Lad and his sister the Ladette, of Swampy and the YBAs, of Posh and Becks and Jarvis Cocker. A new era was dawning which promised to connect us via the 'information superhighway' and entertain us with 'docusoaps'. It was also a period that would see old moral certainties swept aside, and once venerable institutions descend into farce - followed, in the case of the Royal Family, by tragedy. Opening with a war in the Gulf and ending with the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, A Classless Society goes in search of the decade when modern Britain came of age. What it finds is a nation anxiously grappling with new technologies, tentatively embracing new lifestyles, and, above all, forging a new sense of what it means to be British.
'Superb. I was a journalist throughout the 1990s, but did not notice a tenth of what Turner has seen or write about it half as well.' -- Nick Cohen, author of What's Left?
'John Major may have struggled to create a country at ease with itself, but Alwyn Turner's seductive blend of political analysis, social reportage and cultural immersion puts him wonderfully at ease with his readers.' -- David Kynaston, author of Austerity Britain
'It was refreshing to dip into A Classless Society, the third volume of Alwyn Turner's history of Britain since the 1970s... I enjoyed it a great deal.' -- Toby Young Spectator
'Alwyn Turner comprehensively explodes the notion that knowing so much about the 20th century makes a coherent historical account impossible. A Classless Society is an illuminating, admirably inclusive and perhaps essential guide to understanding what just happened. An invaluable English document.' -- Alan Moore, author of Watchmen and From Hell
Tremendously entertaining... As a historian Turner is probably his own worst enemy - which I mean as a compliment. His book has plenty of acute insights, as well as a sensible thesis that the 1990s saw the establishment of a new post-Thatcher settlement, based on economic and social liberalism. But the stories are just so good, and often so funny, that you keep forgetting about the argument... How often, after all, do you read a book that has equally interesting things to say about Britain's exit from the ERM, the advent of Loaded magazine and the rise of Alan Partridge?' -- Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times
Rich and encyclopaedic... A particular pleasure of this wonderful, hilarious book is Turner's contempt for politicians, who are 'perverts, liars and conmen', on the whole. -- Roger Lewis Daily Mail - 'Book of the Week
'He is amusing, perceptive and reminds the reader of the TV programmes and musical artists they have loved and then forgotten. -- David Aaronovitch The Times' Critics Choice
'Isn't it too soon for a history of the Nineties - their recentness carrying an inherent danger of not seeing the wood for the trees? Turner's solution is to anchor his narrative firmly in the era's politics, splitting the decade into the Major and Blair years - resulting in a very credible first draft... Turner has a good ear too for political gossip - Major's flirtatiousness (to Margaret Beckett: 'Would you like a nibble of my mace?') and Blair's impatience (on Roy Hattersley: a 'fat, pompous bugger'). -- Andrew Neather London Evening Standard
'One of the great strengths of this ... very readable and enjoyable book is Turner's use of the telling vignette. An early one is the story of how Major, a few weeks after becoming PM, crossed the floor of the Commons to kneel beside the old leftie Eric Heffer, who was obviously dying but had left his sickbed to vote against Britain's involvement in the first war against Saddam Hussein. This sweet and most un-Thatcherite gesture provoked applause in the House, a bipartisan and possibly unprecedented breach of protocol... Reading A Classless Society is like a safari through vaguely familiar country, illuminated by a shrewd, fair-minded guide with an elephantine memory.' -- Matthew Engel Financial Times
'A tremendous book ... takes you there, and reminds you of the taste and feel of those times ... proves beyond doubt that the Nineties were a very important decade. One day, there will be lots of books about this period. I suspect that the first may well be the best.' -- Dan Atkinson, co-author of The Gods That Failed Mail Online *****
'The field of instant history now attracts some of this country's liveliest and most intelligent writers ... Alwyn W. Turner ranks high among them: ravenously inquisitive, darkly comical and coolly undeceived... Turner is a master of the telling detail... His research is phenomenal. There seems to be no haystack through which he has not rummaged in search of every needle... Turner has a talent for zooming in and out from the general to the particular and back again. This means he is able at one and the same time to see both the wood and the trees... A Year In Provence, Squidgygate, the Chippendales, Cool Britannia, Black Wednesday, Swampy, Robert Maxwell, 'Something of the Night'; Alwyn W. Turner conjures them all up, as vivid and eerie as a dream. -- Craig Brown Mail on Sunday - 'Book of the Week'
Publication date: 17/04/2014
Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd
|Publication date:||17th April 2014|
|Author:||Alwyn W. Turner|
|Publisher:||Aurum Press Ltd|
|Genres:||Biography / Autobiography, Books of the Month, History, The Real World,|
Alwyn W. Turner is the author of Crisis? What Crisis? Britain in the 1970s and Rejoice! Rejoice! Britain in the 1980s, both published by Aurum Press. An acclaimed writer on post-war British culture, his other books include The Biba Experience, Halfway to Paradise: The Birth of British Rock and My Generation: The Glory Years of British Rock.More About Alwyn W. Turner