Mixed reviews for Blair’s book

02.09.10 | Victoria Gallagher

Reviews for Tony Blair’s memoir A Journey (Hutchinson) have been mixed but comprehensive with 49 pages of the national press devoted to it today.

The Telegraph called the memoirs “a strange book by a gifted man”. Columnist Simon Heffer commented that “there have never been prime ministerial memoirs like these”. He added: “They are the memoirs of a man who tries to marry two conflicting impulses—wanting to be liked . . . and wanting to settle scores.” Heffer also questioned how much the title is a “result of an instruction from his publishers to provide something that will make money”, and how much came from Blair’s personality.

The Guardian’s Julian Glover wrote: “You can’t put it down. But then it is so badly written in parts that you can barely pick it up.” He added: “At times its great flaws are magicked away by his brilliance as a politician, the man who can make you believe. Then, pages later, you feel almost sick. There are at least three gushing sexual passages, more Mills and Boon than prime ministerial memoir.”

Author Ben Macintyre writing for the Times said the book often reads as though it has been dictated: “written in a congenial style peppered with slang and gossipy asides”. He added: “At one moment he is the bloke in the pub. The next, he is Churchill.”

New Labour spin-doctor Peter Mandelson has provided his views on Blair’s book for the Independent, saying the lesson at the heart of the memoir is that Labour lost the vote in 2010 because “we appeared to voters to have lost our way in the final years of government”. Also writing for the Independent Mary Ann Sieghart said she was struck by Blair’s candour. She added: “I have read many a prime ministerial memoir and none of the other authors has been as self-deprecating, as willing to admit mistakes and to tell jokes against themselves.”

Despite the headline ‘Such epic conceit’, the Daily Mail said the title is interesting, “full of good and often funny vignettes of power”. It added: “It says much for the author that, despite acres of such yuck, gush and awesome moral conceit, he also paints a vivid picture of what it is like to be prime minister 24 hours day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

Yesterday [1st September], Waterstone’s called the title “the political memoir of the year”, reporting that it was outperforming sales of Mandelson’s The Third Man (HarperCollins) eight to one on first day of sales.

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