Piers Brendon turns his sharp and witty eye to four characters who have illuminated the age of Elizabeth II: Rupert Murdoch, Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher and Mick Jagger.
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Published: 13 September 2012
Genre: Cultural studies
Modelled on Lytton Strachey’s classic portrayal of eminent Victorians, Piers Brendon’s cameo biographies shed dazzling new light on the age of Queen Elizabeth II. All four of his characters have loomed large in the annals of their time. All have aroused controversy in the uttermost corners of the earth, stirring passions as much by personality as by performance. And all have been ambivalent towards the great contemporary process of change, promoting revolt yet championing continuity, flirting with radicalism yet embracing conservatism. Brendon’s cast list is as follows: ·Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire media mogul whose empire, built on an ethical void, has polluted the channels of communication from London to Sydney, from New York to New Guinea; ·Prince Charles, the royal dilettante whose erratic exploits shook the throne and put his own succession to it at risk; ·Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister, who dedicated herself with messianic zeal to breaking the mould of post-war British politics; and ·Mick Jagger, lead singer of the Rolling Stones, who embodied the sixties counter-culture of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll yet aspired to be a gentleman and accepted a knighthood at the behest of Tony Blair. A sequel to Brendon’s best-selling Eminent Edwardians, which has been in print ever since it was published nearly thirty years ago, Eminent Elizabethans is written in the same witty, ironic and irreverent style. Like its predecessor, it sets its quartet in context, revealing how each one played out a major theme in the new Elizabethan medley. But the dramatis personae are not just treated as symptoms of their history, rather as creatures of flesh and blood. They are vividly and vitally depicted through pungent anecdote, piquant quotation and mordant commentary. In short, these brilliant miniatures are as entertaining as they are illuminating.
A delight for connoisseurs of irreverence (4 stars)
Christopher Silvester, Daily Express
The book abounds with funny stories…there are three or four juicy details on every page (4 stars)
Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
Excellent… By bringing a real historian’s discipline to the task, Brendon has unearthed lots of new material, including the first logged double entendre by Margaret “will this gun jerk me off?” Thatcher -
Simon Hoggart, Guardian
He possesses a sharp eye for illuminating detail and for his subjects’ contradictions… Often he is as funny as he is viperfish... If there is plenty of acidity here, there is also fairness
John Preston, Sunday Telegraph
Entirely refreshing… Steers well clear of reverence… It’s all merrily contentious stuff – and Brendon wears his mask of criticism well
Bel Mooney, Daily Mail
Brendon’s great skill lies not just in telling funny stories, but in puncturing his subjects’ vision of themselves
Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
[A] triumph of brevity and wit
Mary Crockett, Scotsman
Pacy, even racy, prose
Donald Trelford, Literary Review
The spirit of our age, as captured in the lives of four prominent figures
Brendon is faced with an excess of material and his challenge is to select from the sea of online and biographical information just enough detail to give us the quintessence of his subjects. An excellent writer, he manages more than this, giving the reader not simply a taste of each figure but their full flavor… His genius is to resurrect the anecdote… A relentless routine of gags, related in Brendon’s rapid, incisive prose (5 stars)
Frances Wilson, Daily Telegraph
Readers of this book will find it compulsively readable and often hilarious, and most will emerge refreshed from the experience
Press Association (syndicated review)
Brendon possesses a sharp eye for illuminating detail and his subjects’ contradictions
The author seeks out the funniest anecdotes and weaves them together with his own observational wit… A welcome addition to the trilogy
Antonia Charlesworth, Big Issue in the North
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Piers Brendon is the author of more than a dozen books, including biographies of Churchill and Eisenhower, the best-selling Eminent Edwardians; The Windsors; The Dark Valley; The Hawker of Morwenstow; ...