Saturday, June 28, 2008

Book Review: Cherie Blair's Autobiography

Cherie Blair is a woman who people have very strong feelings about. She attracts adoration and loathing in equal measure. She was widely seen as something of an embarrassment for some of her antics (supermarket sweep, singing in China etc) and yet there was always a feeling, even among her detractors, that behind the sometimes vulgar veneer, there was a deeply intelligent, talented and determined woman.

Her career in the legal profession is testament to her undoubted talent. Reading her book, one is left with the impression that whatever career path she had chosen she would have reached the top on merit.

I'll be honest and say I wasn't particularly looking forward to reading this book. It was a toss-up as to whether I read this or the Prescott book first. I am glad I made the choice I did.

I hope you are sitting down for this, but I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a book so much. It is well written, pacy, informal, gossipy, full of wonderful anecdotes and, contrary to what I expected, did actually tell the reader a lot of new information. It is not a book which seeks to skate over some awkward truths. Cherie Blair seems to be a woman who is fully aware of her own weaknesses and penchant for embarrassing moments. She must be as she gleefully recounts them all, sometimes in a little too much detail, but she does it in an engaging and almost endearing manner.

At times she struggles with her almost hard-wired desire to stand by her man (and hang the consequences) and her obvious potential to get to the top of the legal profession. She doesn't exactly resent the sacrifices she has had to make, but she obviously wonders how far she might have got without her notoriety.

Cherie Blair (or Mrs B, as she was known in Number 10) has been attacked for giving us too uch information in the book about her sexual proclivities. Admittedly, I too winced on occasion and wondered if I really needed to know some of the details she outlines. But then it hit home. She has been seeringly open about that part of her life and much more besides. She's given us the detail and left us, the readers, to judge her on it. In a way, she has done what I tend to do on this blog from time to time - give perhaps too much information about my personal life. I do it because I feel it's part of what the blog is all about. She's done it because she has written an autobiography which she intended to be warts and all.

I am well aware that the majority of the readers of this blog will have an instinctively negative reaction to Cherie Blair. Most of you wouldn't dream of buying the book let alone reading it. All I can say is that you are missing a cracking good read. If you need a book to read on the beach, or by the pool on your summer hols, I can't think of one I would recommend more than this.

Oh dear, that's two Labour women whose hearts I have failed to drive a stake through today. Must be going soft in my old age.

Buy the book HERE.

41 comments:

A Tangled Web said...

That's it! I'm buying it even if only to take issue with you. I'm off on holiday soon and it might be a toss up between this one and the latest harry potter.

Potter could still win the day.

Peter said...

I'm halfway through and I plan to finish it - it's not as bad a book as most press reviewers seem to think. Given you obviously liked it, Iain, why do you think it got such bad reviews?

Alan Douglas said...

Iain, it is said that marriage changes a man - mellows and alters his view of things that were once anathema, and you seem to be the living proof !

Alan Douglas

dearieme said...

Greedie Boot.

The Lakelander said...

Iain,

I had this as my Book Of The Week at the end of May.

Though I think my copy had a slightly different front cover to your copy

Unsworth said...

"...there was a deeply intelligent, talented and determined woman"

You may be right - and so? Is that an endorsement? Does it say anything of her (lack of?) integrity?

Any 'instinctive negativity' is nothing to do with her intelligence, talent and determination and everything to do with her sordid, selfish, grasping pursuit of money, riches and yes, power.

Frankly I found her obvious self-obsession, cringingly, buttock-clenchingly, nauseating. Her book has done precisely nothing to change that view. It may be a jolly series of anecdotes - but so what?

What has this woman done for her fellow human being? How has she used her position to contribute to society? That's the measure.

Anonymous said...

I would have a bit more trust in your honesty and objectivity if you were not taking commission for sales of the book.

Media tart is one thing - but if you are expecting us to take your reviews at face value, don't be taking the kickbacks, d'ya hear ? Otherwise it is just the sort of 'advertorial' tosh the cheap sunday magazines are full of - and you're better than that

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous, that old canard again, eh? I put that link on as a convenience to readers. I put it on whether or not I praise or slate a book. Do you seriosuly think I would spend 20 minutes writing a puff piece for a book for the prospect of earning about £1 in commission. Do me a favour. If you really do believe that it beggars belief to think that you bother reading my blog at all!

Anonymous said...

"her obvious potential to get to the top of the legal profession"

Yeah, right. No, really, I believe you. I do, honest, I do.

Well, not really.

Anonymous said...

Hmm.. but if a 100 people bought it, that would be a slightly different proposition.

If you declared your interest up-front that would be slightly less likely to arouse one's suspicion.

I believe that you 'say it as you see it', but if anyone believes that they can be just as independently minded about something where there is the financial conflict of interest of getting some dosh at the end of it, then they are kidding themselves, is all I can say..

It is the difference between the sort of film reviews you get in the Daily Mail, and ones like Kermode or Peter Bradshaw.

Iain Dale said...

With respect, you are talking bollocks. If you want to live in a culture of suspicion that is up to you. To seriously think that I would write a review based on earning a few quid is utterly preposterous. Whenever I provide these links a maximum of ten people actually buy the book. I get a 5% commission. Do the math. As I say, utterly preposterous.

The Lakelander said...

Bloody Hell, Iain!

5% you say?

I never realised that Poundland were so generous with their referrers.

judith said...

Sorry Iain, but having read a couple of excerpts, I can only shudder at the woman.

It's nothing to do with her political leanings, or her background, it's her complete lack of personal dignity and her over-ample supply of vulgarity.

Noelinho said...

Can't say I'd been planning to buy the book, but maybe I'll give it a go now.

Brockley Kate said...

Crikey.

Vicky Ford said...

Now I'm in a quandry. Would like to read the book to make my own judgement but not prepared to line Blair's pocket. Can I borrow your copy? -- will give donation to charity of your choice.

Alwyn ap Huw said...

giving us too uch information in the book about her sexual proclivity

Was this a typo, a Freudian slip or intentional?

Reading about her conceiving and her contraception devices is, indeed, too much info and very, very uuuch!

BlairSupporter said...

Iain - congratulations on your open-mindedness and honest critique. Pity about some of your readers, particularly those who seem to know this woman - with her years of giving to charity - better than she knows herself!?

They know nothing other than what they read in such articles as thrown together by Oborne's ilk.

One can write a good critique of anything with the aforementioned type of mind. All arts criticism need not be bad!

I have only just bought the book - £10 at Tesco's btw! Although I am a big fan of her husband - there are more of us than you think - I had been rather put off by the paper extracts. The personal stuff would likely have had the other half and me in the courts, if either of us had written it!

But at a first glance, I think I will enjoy the book. Cherie is as self-deprecating as Tony can be. That's an attractive trait, you know.

More of us should try it.

tapestry said...

My brother in law went to dinner at Downing St, and was hosted by Cherie. He's a historian at a Scottish University. He found her charming.

Her 'revelations' could be a cover-up for the really interesting stories about the Blairs which have yet to come out.

It'll be worth reading - to compare to Campbell's version of events. It's another 'hold your nose' essential read.

mitch said...

you have a stronger stomach than I! The Blunkett tome put me off I've read some rubbish but he set the bar so I refuse to give that vile harpy some of my money unless she turns up with a gun.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Who is that on the front cover of her book?

Ross said...

" She attracts adoration and loathing in equal measure. "

No, the loathing definitely outweighs the adoration.

Indigo said...

Nope, still don't want to read the book. The bits I saw serialised here and there were too off-putting and caused me to think for the first time that it was the Prime Minister's wife - not the Prime Minister - who committed the UK to the illegal invasion of another sovereign country that was no threat at all to the West.

Adam McNestrie said...

Now, I haven't been to all the trouble that Iain has. I'm guessing that he read the whole book or enough of it to be able to make out that he did; I just flicked through a few pages in Borders. Still, though, having done so I am incredulous that anyone could want to read this book. It seems to be the most banal sort of autobiography, an inventory of things that happened to the person in question written in the most insipid, child-like prose - prose so bad that I cannot believe it was written by a prominent barrister.

Please don't buy this book.

Instead you should read my blog on wordpress.com - it's frankly a lot better:
http://adammcnestrie.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

Still, I did enjoy the craven apology which Cherie Blair extracted from the News of the World today! What a bunch of idiots their political staff must be to let her take the paper to the cleaners...

Anonymous said...

Adam McNestrie said...
"Please don't buy this book.

Instead you should read my blog on wordpress.com - it's frankly a lot better:
http://adammcnestrie.wordpress.com/"

What a sad individual you are.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your review of the book. I know that I can always rely on your honesty Iain a quality I admire whether I agree or not with your view. I too have read the book (read Lord Levy's first) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have not as yet bought John Prescotts but will do as I read every political book published! Like you, I enjoyed the writing style (apparently she wrote it herself) and the amount of information imparted. Her earlier life was particularly interesting as it mirrored my own.

Her determination to succeed shone through as well as doing so by her own efforts. Her acknowledgement that she sometimes speaks out of turn was apparent when she challenged her head of chambers on a legal issue. The audacity - a junior and a woman taking on the QC! Magnificent! Now if she had gone to Roedean she would have had the skills to address the counter legal opinion in a then acceptable manner. Her difficulties in coping with being put in her place (keep out of the way) by her husband's aides sounded awful! Her quite reasonable attempts to thwart them were disastrous. What the book also indicated to me is that the top of our government is not geared for any partner of a premier who has a career nor one who holds political and professional views. The support was not there for Mrs B unlike in other countries were partners have their own offices.

I felt the book reflected too her need to provide security for her husband and children and having to put her own career on hold. Do we expect a lot of a PM's partner - attend numerous functions, dress to the hilt etc etc. This interrupts careers. We do not pay them a salary or provide allowances for dress either! Politicians come and go and Mrs B realised that. She stated her responsibility for the family budget. She has been criticised for complaining about the then Chancellor blocking a pay award. Is she any different to us? She had a huge mortgage and three children and her earnings were about to be reduced because of her role as the PMs wife. We all live up to our income - she is no different. Those who seek to denigrate her apply a different set of standards!

A human being like us all - that is what I am left with. A warm and kind one who tried to do her best and like all human beings got it wrong occasionally. Also the fact that a woman from humble circumstances succeeded in her life through her own effort has brought derisory comment rather than welcomed as a model to all that regardless of background we can all succeed. I am still debating whether the personal vendetta which continues, is because of her class, gender or jealousy. Perhaps all three?

Brian W said...

Might consider buying it when it gets remaindered.

Word verification wjipy - just how my stomach might feel!

Roger Thornhill said...

Unsold copies to be used to heat the homes of the elderly.

Anonymous said...

Those who would like to read the book but who, in these tough economic times, can't afford to buy it or who don't want to contribute to La Blair's bank balance, might consider ordering it from their local public library, many of which are under threat of closure from underfunding and underuse by a generation uneducated during the Labour years.

Joyce

Auntie Flo' said...

I refuse to give the grasping Blairs any more money than they've already filched from the taxpayer. And I refuse to popularise this woman's lies. Blair should be in the dock for war crimes, not collecting royalties from us via his wife.

Anonymous said...

Iain you seem quite sniffy about the "canard" of commissions from your link to this book. The issues surrounding disclosure are hotly debated amongst the pro bloggers in the States where it is a serious issue. As a respected blogger, I'd have hoped you might have had a more considered view on this than just shouting down anyone that raises the valid issue.

Brian W said...

Joyce @ 2.40pm - a good idea although the library would also probably wait until it had been remaindered

Bill Quango MP said...

Cherie says......

Thank you for your kind words Iain Dale.

As a working mother I had a job fitting in time to spend on writting my book.
JK Rowling helped me with some of the bigger words but the ideas are all my own work.
Well, mine and that chap who recorded our sessions and took my diaries and emails and press cuttings for perusal.

But when you are juggling a lot of balls [ I am also a juggler at children's parties, as well as the worlds greatest barrister / charity organiser and number 2 superwoman of the world]
it can be hard to actually put down your own feelings.

This is such a decent and thoughtful review,
unlike that Daily Mail one, and after that wonderful Tassimo we got Paul for his birthday.

Naturally I held back some things for my next books:

"Superwoman 2"

"Making the most from your properties."

"Human Rights and soft furnishings; how I passed vital legislation while hemming my Laura Ashley curtains."

and "Cherie and Carol" a sort of chauffered Thelma and Louise where they go off to a spa and then get top jobs at the UN.
Its still in the early draft.
It will be out once I've published "Gordon Brown, the most talentless person in government".
This is the real book that I wrote but Tony wouldn't let me publish. But he says 'it won't really make much difference now. And we need the money"

Again thank you so much.You are a Darling.

Oh and look in Private Eye. My books done 15,000 copies already. "Fatty Prezza" and "touch-up" Levy have only got 1000, so there.

Casual Observer said...

Her real saving grace is her opinion of Brown. She ghot that right on day 1.

Pity her husband didn't listen to her...

Ian Thorpe said...

Yes and not so long ago you were being a tad sympathetic towards The Smurf.

Is this the new caring Conservatism?

newmania is such a bore said...

Quick anecdote about Cherie....

A friend asked her before Tony won in '97 "Will you still work after Tony becomes PM?" She replied "Of course I will - We couldn't possibly survive on £180,000 a year....." I wonder if that is in the book?

Reminds me a bit of Barbara Amiel's comment when Concorde was about to be decommissioned. Someone asked her at a party whether Conrad and her would miss being able to fly across the Atlantic on Concorde.
"No, we won't miss it - We NEVER travel by public transport"

Auntie Flo' said...

newmania is such a bore said...

Absolutely nothing worth noting. Grow up nisb, newmania's a good bloke though slightly shattered at present as he's just become the father of beautiful twin babies, so stop harassing him,there's a good little chap..or girl.

Anonymous said...

anonymous said...

"I am still debating whether the personal vendetta which continues, is because of her class, gender or jealousy. Perhaps all three?"

Nah, she's just vile.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"consider ordering it from their local public library, many of which are under threat of closure from underfunding and underuse by a generation uneducated during the Labour years."

But the libraries are packed with foreigners using IT resources happily paid for by the enriched English nation.

Patti said...

Wow! You Brits are pretty cut-throat. Don't get me wrong, we enjoy slamming our retarded president, Mr. Bush, here in America, but privately we enjoy such intentionally public audacity as in Mrs. Blair's book. It seems Brit prudery is alive and well... thank God! With the world coming to pieces at least there is something of substance we can cling to, eh?