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An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  495 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Elucidates the bizarre events, ridiculous characters and stupid decisions that have shaped Britain's story since 1945
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published 2009 by London : Doubleday
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I don't think I'd mind an irreverent, silly tone in non-fiction. Makes it an easier read, right? And always worth poking fun at history and all the dumb mistakes that we'll never ever make again... or not. But something about O'Farrell's tone just sets my teeth on edge. The book is informative enough, but I couldn't get past the style, and I didn't find it all that funny.
Nick Davies
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
On one hand, I would never have got through a 'straight' book on the same period so easily, and I did learn quite a lot about (in the main, 'political') history in the UK. O'Farrell's style is breezy and readable, and I was drawn to compare with the well-researched and in depth but dry Andrew Marr book on the same subject/period which I read earlier in the year.

On the other hand, the constant jokes got a bit tedious. Satire is better in small doses - with a ~500pp book such as this where there i
Joy Isabella
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I picked up this volume more out of hope than expectation - I've had my fingers burned (eyes blinded? morale crushed?) by supposedly amusing socio-historic books far too often before. To be honest, had there been anything else on hand at the time I probably wouldn't have bothered.

And I would have missed an entertaining volume.

Yes, it took me a little while to get used to the style - apart from anything else, the purist in me gets concerned about a little thing called "factual accuracy" when made
russell barnes
Aug 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: rob manwaring
Shelves: comedy, nonfiction
Handily left behind by Dr Robert Manwaring, who couldn't be cracked to take it back to Australia with him, I thought it'd make an ideal 'bridging' novel betwixt The Leopard and whatever we're reading next for Book Club.

Sadly being a make-weight read was probably as good as it got. You have to wade through a lot of sub-sixth form sniggering and punning before you reach the end. And then, having taken the piss for 450-odd pages, the end is slightly disjointed as O'Farrell suddenly goes all preachy
May 26, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can't be bothered to finish this book. It's quite factual/educational but O'Farrell's political views are made a bit too obvious and the random bouts of humour are often ridiculous, but sometimes they are quite funny... pretty much a waste of time and money.
Stephen McQuiggan
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A look at Britain from the Second World War to the financial collapse of Gordon Brown's tenure as PM. With tongue firmly in cheek, brace yourself as the urine is well and truly extracted - you might just learn something when you've stopped laughing. The most interesting section was on the rise of Thatcher - a vile monster, scary even on the page - and how based on luck her ascension was. For all the irony and sarcasm and witty footnotes there is real poignancy here too - the attempts of good peo ...more
I enjoyed it less than the previous history of Britain. I wonder whether it’s because a lot of the topics are in recent history- particularly with Thatcher onwards in my own lifetime.
I found it rather flippant where I remember the historical events being particularly emotive. Even thinking back over the events I remembered the upset or the fear I felt at the time and found O’Farrell’s humorous approach to these rather insensitive and grating
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comic, historical
Thoroughly enjoyable read and interesting to read of a period of history through which I have lived. There were some wonderful turns of phrase and allusions to present day foibles.
I look forward to reading his other book but will have a break and read some other types of literature first
Feb 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour, history
Although funny at times I must confess to not liking this book nearly as much as its prequel regarding British History up until world war II. I suppose there is much more scope to pick and choose your moments for ridicule when observing such a vast period of history. This book concerns the years since the second world war and is a mildly humorous documentation of political and cultural changes in Britain. Though I didn’t expect it to tell me anything I didn’t already know, I did expect plenty of ...more
Chris Davis
Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really enjoyed O'Farrell's last book on the history of Britain (2000 years up to world war 2). There are plenty of stories ripe for his style of humour in that time period, with Kings and Queens doing things they shouldn't. Unfortunately the 60 year period covered in this book is not quite so suitable for this humour. Yes there are a lot of jokes to be made, but the book tries to cram in too many.

The last book could just select the interesting bits of history, but this one attempts to cover n
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can imagine that some people may not like JO'F but I LOVE his writing, he makes me do that irritating thing where I have to read things out to other people to see if they think it is funny too. This brings up to date where the first book left off ie from WW2 to current date and it was great to be reminded of so many recent historical events told with such an eye for comedy. Read the first one and then try this.
May 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is John O'Farrell's take on the history of the second half of the twentieth century and the title pretty much says it all. It is a catalogue of squandered chances and missed opportunities, of the betrayed hopes of the post war generation.
It would be a very depressing read if he was not such a humorous writer.
Anne HS
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
You will get a lot more out of this romp through the last sixty years of British history if you were there at the time (or most of the time!) having said that, it is still sometimes difficult to tell the send-up from the unbelievable truth. Don't bother picking this book up if you were a fan of Margaret Thatcher. On the other hand, admirers of Tony Blair can rest easy.

Nov 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't enjoy this book as much as John's previous "Utterly ..." book, but I guess it's pretty hard to beat the wonderful quirky stories about kings and queens of the past. This one is much more 'political' and not nearly as laugh-out-loud funny - but it is a good, and fun, summary of recent politics in Britain.
Neil Jenkins
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're comparing this with the previous one, you'll probably decide it's not quite as funny, and more political. But it was still a great read for me with lots of great one-liners that made me laugh out-loud uncontrollably. Definitely worth reading unless you're already very familiar with this period of history. Thanks again John O'Farrell.
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Am fussy about how my history is presented to me - incidentally it has been a least favourite subject ever since school. This came highly recommended. It has some brilliant comedy lines but has altogether the wrong tone for me. Author seems convinced that no good has come out of anything in last 60 years and this attitude palled after a while.
Florin Pitea
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book in less than 24 hours. Well documented, very funny, quite instructive. It contains numerous references to UK politics, economy, diplomacy, military operations, sports and popular culture. Recommended. For more details, please visit my blog here:
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A concise history of British politics for the faint of heart. You could see the left-wing tendencies of the author a mile off, but it didn't matter as he adequately took the piss out of politicians from all sides. Great read, with some genuine 'lol' moments...
Susan Corcoran
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I utterly adored this clever and funny history of modern Britain. The writer has delivered a highly informative, witty look at a modern democracy. It's a particularly pertinent read at the current time. I laughed a great deal and nodded my head in agreement throughout.
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Bit disappointing. Not as funny as the 2,000 years book, and somewhat preachy in places. A few bad mistakes, too ... Ethiopia isn't a majority Muslim nation, actually.
Jul 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
good good good. funny too.
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a superbly humorous way to know the history of this period. Enjoyable read along with knowledge and helps understand a lot of the politics.
Jan 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A light touch, enjoyable prose, and quite a few laugh out loud moments - filled in a lot of the holes in my British history education - I will definitely be getting the previous one.
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another good book from this author, as usual a really great read.
Neelakantan K.K.
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very nicely written. Although certain sections do make one aware of the author's bias, it remains an engaging read.
Jul 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome ! A very satirical take on British history
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found myself laughing out loud in some places, smirking in others and even learning a thing or two.
Saul Mcintyre
Not bad, amusing and interesting in equal measures, a quick dash through post war politics with a cynical eye.
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this guy! I learn so much and laugh through it all.
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John O'Farrell is the author of four novels: The Man Who Forgot His Wife, May Contain Nuts, This Is Your Life and The Best a Man Can Get. His novels have been translated into over twenty languages and have been adapted for radio and television. He has also written two best-selling history books: An Utterly Impartial History of Britain and An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain, as well a ...more
More about John O'Farrell

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“British car strikes reduce production of Austin Allegros and Morris Marinas. Rest of world copes.” 0 likes
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