RaveThe Times (UK)As the story builds towards the denouement, the book becomes more gripping than a thriller, because it is about real lives that were transformed or destroyed by the events described. The story arc, through betrayal and disaster to triumph, is perfect ... it is a cracking tale that deserves retelling and helps to sharpen our collective memory of the half-century of tyranny that our near neighbours endured.
RaveThe Times (UK)Readers need not trouble themselves with the first hundred or so pages. The account of the spread of the pandemic and the lead-in to lockdown is fine, but it doesn’t hold any surprises for those who were reading the newspapers at the time ... In the absence of an insider’s account, Tooze’s deep understanding and close observation of markets and monetary policymakers provide a pretty good substitute, and the story he tells is a gripping one ... It’s a complex story, which Tooze tells with clarity and verve. Out of a large pile of sows’ ears, in the form of statistics, academic papers and deliberately dull press releases, he weaves a remarkably readable narrative. Cliffhangers abound ... Tooze illuminates his story by setting it in the context of historical events and big economic ideas. And he is assiduous in explaining the links between what decision-makers are doing and what’s happening in the markets, between events in the rich world and those in emerging markets, between geopolitics and the global economy ... Instant histories are rarely successful, but the world is unlikely to be treated to a better account of the economics of the pandemic than the central section of Tooze’s book. Anybody who is curious about how the thing was managed should read it; anybody who wants to know how to turn a technical subject into thrilling writing should learn from it.
MixedThe Times (UK)The book’s principal virtue springs from Shaxson’s skill in unpicking the complexity of the system and explaining it in layman’s terms. He takes the reader by the hand and leads them through bank capital requirements, special purpose vehicles, credit-default swaps and the other derivatives that were one of the main causes of the great crash — in more detail, although with fewer bubbles, than Margot Robbie did in her bathtub in The Big Short ... Shaxson also does an excellent job of fingering the regulatory laxity of the City of London ... While many of Shaxson’s charges are well-aimed and hit their target, as the book gathers pace it widens its angle of attack to spray bullets at pretty much all the usual Spartist targets ... The tone switches from one of journalistic probing to that of a conspiracy theorist whose fingers are typing too fast for his brain ... Some readers, no doubt, will regard the invective as a strength rather than a weakness. Polemics suit a populist era. Shaxson’s book will no doubt sell very well as a bible for Corbynistas, but it risks putting off those who are looking for enlightenment, rather than to have their prejudices confirmed. Which is a shame, because there is a great deal of well reported, well argued stuff in it.