Margaret Thatcher -- Power and Personality by Jonathan Aitkin, Bloomsbury '13, $35, 764 pages, ASIN #1620403420. Index, notes describing sources, bibliography, footnotes, grouping of b&w and color glossy images.
Years ago, when the Manchester Guardian's late columnist Hugo Young wrote a biography of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, his title -- The Iron Lady -- seemed fitting for the nation's first female PM, with a take-no-prisoners attitude.
But as former British cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken writes in his new Thatcher biography, Maggie Thatcher was a multifaceted woman: "She was hospitable, feminine, confiding, dysfunctional within her family,....and much more vulnerable than I had realised. One night I found her in tears in her Flood Street home because some backbench critic had told her she was 'wrecking the party'. I told her to ignore it but she left the room in emotional distress saying: 'I hurt too, you know.'"
It would be a lot to expect for Aitken to have written a scrupulously objective biography, given the fact that he has been a close family friend for 40 years. But as a Thatcher insider, he demonstrates a unique vantage point and sheds light on many crucial episodes of the Thatcher era: "her ousting of Ted Heath, her battles with her Cabinet, the Falklands War, the Miners' Strike, her relationships with world leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev,and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, and the build up to the Shakespearean coup inside the Conservative Party which brought about her downfall." One of the thornier issues of the book is Aitken's relationships with women, including Thatcher's own daughter Carol: "She was one of the great loves of my life, but I handled our romance badly."
Author Jonathan Aitken, a former MP, has written 12 books, including his award-winning biography of President Richard Nixon. He lives in London.
Literary Advertising and the Shaping of British Romanticism by Nicholas Mason, Johns Hopkins UPress '13, $49.95, 202 pages, ASIN #1421409984. Index, bibliography, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
Scholar/author Nicholas Mason describes in his Introduction the rebranded magazine that is the subject of his narrative, "as an all-out declaration of war on the literary status quo, a thorough repudiation of the backroom, back-scratching world of mainstream publishing. And from the start, a central fixation was upon reforming literary criticism, which in the eyes of many, had devolved into yet another branch of the nation's (Britain's) hydra-headed advertising system."
Literary Advertising and the Shaping of British Romanticism investigates the entwined histories of the advertising industry and the gradual commodification of literature over the course of the Romantic Century (1750--1850)," the author writes. In compiling this work, Mason draws on "archival materials such as publishers' account books, merchants' trade cards, and authors' letters...."
Nicholas Mason is an associate professor of English at Brigham Young University.