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There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  175 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Great Britain in the 1970s appeared to be in terminal decline—ungovernable, an economic train wreck, and rapidly headed for global irrelevance. Three decades later, it is the richest and most influential country in Europe, and Margaret Thatcher is the reason. The preternaturally determined Thatcher rose from nothing, seized control of Britain’s Conservative party, and took ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Tender-hearted liberal that I am, it is only with great trepidation and a deep sense of irony that I picked up and perused a copy of Claire Berlinsky's book, 'There is No Alternative', one day at Barnes & Noble.

Most other readers who have spent any time in the 'Current Affairs' section of that store will appreciate that I had good reason to be hesitant: this is the place where those choleric diatribes from the Glen Becks and Ann Coulters of the world go to await purchase at the hands of the
Claire Berlinski has written one of the finest biographies of 2008. There Is No Alternative is a wonderfully written account of Margaret Thatcher and her policies. The sub-title – Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, give the clue as to the tone. Ms. Berlinski covers not just the facts of history, but delves into the meaning and political outcomes to those policies.

First off, the book is superbly written. Berlinski manages to liven up economics and labor talk that most authors get lost in the minuti
If you're somewhat knowledgeable on Thatcher and British politics in general, THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE might strike you as lightweight and rather unnecessary. But, for an American like me whose only real knowledge of Thatcher was that Meryl Streep played her in THE IRON LADY, this book serves as a wonderful, easy-to-understand introduction to one of the most pivotal women in history.
Reading this book gave me a good understanding as to why she is so adored by some and reviled by others. Berlinski
Bojan Tunguz
Margaret Thatcher is one of the most iconic political figures of the 20th century. She was the first female head of government, and to this day all strong female politicians inevitably invoke the comparison with her. However, her fame and achievements go well beyond just being a symbolic first in women's ascension in public and professional life. The impact that she had on both the British domestic policy and the international relations at the end of Cold War are monumental and will be hard to e ...more
An unconventional biography. If you want details about Margaret Thatcher's life, look elsewhere. If you want to understand how her political strategies influenced the world during her years as prime minister and how they continue to influence us today, read this book. If you don't want to understand that, read this anyway. Berlinski's writing is fresh and personal and often funny.
Gerard  Perry
One of the best books about Thatcherism and Thatcher that I've read. Even though Berlinski is supportive of the revolutionary changes she instituted throughout the British economy and culture-and doesn't hesitate to critique the failings of her opponents, e.g. Arthur Scargill, the rigidly Communist, Moscow apparatchik in charge of the British mineworkers, Neil Kinnock, the ineffectual leader of the Labor Party-she still recognizes the flaws of Thatcher/Tory rule. For example, the blind spot That ...more
I am so glad I read this book! I tend to avoid biographies, thinking they will be long and dry. This was very readable and, in parts, even funny. The author interviewed both friend and foe, so we see Thatcher warts and all.

A tidbit of information that I learned: She received the nickname "The Iron Lady" -- which is now of course seen as a compliment -- from the state-controlled Soviet press, who wanted to damage her, to paint her as cold and heartless. Also, a British journalist once described
Informative and amusing. I particularly enjoyed the footnotes and whatnot which explained Britishisms. And the overall sense of humor with which Berlinski wrote this. Her bias as a narrator was made very obvious, as part of the whole format of the book (interspersed with transcripts of the interviews used to gather the information for the book's main narrative). Mixing up the narrative with quotations and excerpts of interviews and other such documents kept it interesting, as did Berlinski's sen ...more
Naile Berna
A book about a woman I admire, written by another woman I admire.

I did not want this book to end (that rarely happens with biographies). I kept finding myself researching the references, and watching/listening to Thatcher, her companions and adversaries online.

I appreciate how candidly Claire Berlinski wrote her thoughts, and the facts. I learned a whole lot about Thatcher, her policies and world politics throughout her time.

I am convinced for all the observable harm, simply "there was no alt
Steve.  g
Went to see the Mel Streep movie The Iron Lady the other day and thought it was awful...she was good, mind, but the story was a jumble of dotty old lady flashbacks with no discernable narrative. It didnt even hint at WHY it was called the Iron lady. It might as well have been the Ironing lady for all the housework she was doing.
Remedy this with a couple of books on the subject 1, The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister by J O'Sullivan (to be fair this one take a broader look at the face o
Recommended to me by Alex Kershaw, and for good reason - this one is well-balanced. Enjoyed it very much.
Enjoyed this book. The author's style was engaging. I wanted to learn about Margaret Thatcher and her times. I wanted to know why the author thought MT mattered. I picked a good book to start with. In the author's words, Margaret Thatcher mattered because she could "sense the big picture" and could understand historical forces and "master" them. Lenin had these abilities and so did Winston Churchill. Margaret Thatcher had these gifts. The author shows that M. Thatcher understood the big picture ...more
With such a title, I expected -- and didn't mind -- Berlinski's partisan approval of most things Thatcher. What was infinitely annoying, however, is how the title of the book could easily have been "Claire Berlinski gossips about Margaret Thatcher with people who knew Margaret Thatcher." It's possible "I" appears more often than "Thatcher," in fact.

The answer to why Thatcher matters is in here, but clearly that mattered less to Berlinski than the titillation of hobnobbing with the Conservative (
Sarah Hayes
Dec 19, 2011 Sarah Hayes marked it as abandoned
Shelves: politics-history
Was looking for a fair, unbiased look at the Iron Lady's legacy. What I found instead was a academic excuse of a love letter for Thatcher, complete with the infamous scene of Berlinski smelling the handbag as well as constantly making excuses for failed policies during Thatcher's era and trying to make it sound like London was ~saved~ by her policies; there is also the characterization of Labour men who disliked Thatcher as men with mommy issues. It was shallow and clunkily written and I regret ...more
Greg Perciak
I always got a kick out of Maggie Thatcher and had read Berlinski's previous book - Menace in Europe - so I knew she's a good author. This is an unconventional biography (more of a profile, actually), put together without regard for chronology, mostly from interviews with those who knew and worked with her, and with more than a few of the author's well-argued opinions. It also contains a readable refresher in Economics 101. I realize that doesn't sound exciting but the book actually improves as ...more
Berlinski is very much in the pro-Thatcher camp but her biography is fair, interviewing may of Thatcher's opponents (except Scargill, who refused to be interviewed). It does an excellent job of establishing the sorry state of Britain when she took power, the steps she took and the consequences. Definitely a must read. She includes a lot of verbatim transcripts with the principles, which is entertaining. British politicians actually tend to say things.
First book on my book group list year. A reasonably well researched book , timeline jumps a little which could be confusing for anyone not overly familiar with UK modern history. With hindsight it is easy to see just how important she was to ensuring the freedoms that Britain now enjoys. Looking forward to hearing what the book group made of it esp. as I will be the only one who was actually in the country when this all took place!
Ezra Hood
Wow, what a great read. Berlinski has an eye for drama, and keys in to the battle between Scargill and Thatcher with skill. For those of us too young to remember it, this is a good way to learn about it, both the events, and the ideological undercurrents that drove history toward the conflict.

And it's a compelling treatment of Thatcher, which is a nice counterpunch to the prevailing leftist crap that swirls around us about her.
Phil Costa
I'm not well informed enough to have strong opinions about Thatcher but I thoroughly enjoyed this unconventional book. The author definitely comes down on the positive side while still leveling a number of criticisms and pointing out some of Thatcher's weaknesses. But what won me over was her unconventional humor and style -- a must if I'm going to get through a book of history.
I loved this book. I learned so much about this great woman, and Ronald Reagan and Gorbachov. There were things happening in the world during my adult lifetime, that I now understand better, looking backwards. The author has a great move along style for a historical writer. It is never boring. Everyone needs to read this.
There is little I can add to what the other reviewers have written. Suffice it to say that she was an extraordinary woman and leader. The British people were lucky to have her, and very smart in electing her three times. As for the book, extremely interesting and well-written.
This was a very unique biography in which the author's personality really shines through. She presents a picture of Margaret Thatcher and her policies that is very interesting and she makes a complex subject very digestable. I highly recommend this book.
I ordered this book after watching the Berlinski interview on "Uncommon Knowledge." But I was so intent on Claire's necklace I thought the book was about Teri Hatcher. Guess I should have paid more attention...
Mike Sauve
Great read. Lady Thatcher saved the UK. We could use someone like her in the US right now. Ms. Berlinksi is a excellent writer. Her intelligence shines through.
Avril Vandermerwe
A fascinating read, prompting me to want to read more on this subject, and to access archived material of Thatcher's speeches.
Tress Huntley
Fascinating and very informative. A bit juicy, which I didn't expect. Further reading to be had on this subject.
Very lively and balanced look at this most important figure.
Nedland P.
Excellent so far, still working on it.
Douglas Laird
'The Iron Lady' says it all.
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CLAIRE BERLINSKI WAS born in 1968 in California, and grew up in New York, Seattle and California. She received her undergraduate degree in Modern History and her doctorate in International Relations from Balliol College at Oxford University. She has since lived and worked in Britain, Thailand, Laos, France, and Turkey as a journalist, academic, consultant and freelance writer.
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