02 May 2009 – LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme

I was thrilled to win this in the Early Reviewers programme and delighted when a fully-polished, lovely hardback book arrived in the post.  Having recently developed an interest in history, and read with glee the Andrew Marr post-war history, I was eager to see what I could learn about this recent decade.

Like me, the author grew up in the 1970s and was keen to find out if it really was all disappointment, rubbish heaps and grey dinginess.  Like me, he had a very blurred understanding of the political figures of the time.  Unlike me, he’s a journalist of some renown and, armed with a good strong nose for destroying myth (and some excellent contacts) he sets out to examine the time, both through original sources, books written at and about the time, including works of history, memoir and polemic, and then with modern day visits and interviews.  This leads to a detailed and multifaceted book, which switches points of view and chronology often enough to remain interesting to the reader, while providing a good steady context and not confusing.

The picture of trade unionism and its relation with government is particularly strong in the book, but it also covers the various movements (gay and women’s lib, ecology, free festivals) that grew or strengthened in the decade, as well as giving a very detailed picture of the machinations of government.  There is a short chapter on Marxism which was mocked by a national newspaper reviewer for being a) short and b) about Beckett’s cousin, but it does fit in to the general context, with plenty of source material and a revolutionary interviewed in his later, less radical years. 

It helps, of course, that there are echoes of the seventies in today’s crises – climate warnings, terrorist threats and stagflation.  But this point is not laboured, and the book stands proudly on its own merits.  Thatcher looms over the second part of it, and I would like to see Beckett tackle the Eighties next – I’m sure he would do a good job.