Some of the details are almost too good to be true ... This dramatic description of Thatcher’s fall is the emotional high point of the third and final volume of Moore’s trilogy. Not merely the authorized biography, Moore’s is the definitive biography of Thatcher, and perhaps one of the definitive books about Britain in the late twentieth century ... he does not hide his admiration for Thatcher, and this may not be a bad thing: nobody who did not admire Thatcher would be able to do what he has done ... Yet Moore maintains a genuine objectivity as well, always seeking to understand and reflect the views of people who did not admire Thatcher.
The account is riveting in its detail, with Moore finding new sources—diaries, contemporary notes—to bring fresh life and facts to the story. It astonishes, for instance, that her chief whip, Tim Renton, did not vote for her ... Moore’s Margaret Thatcher is one of the truly great biographies. Throughout the three volumes it has been comprehensive and subtle, breaking new ground while being surefooted on familiar terrain. He provides a portrait of Thatcher—her anxiousness and her certainty, her strength and her frailty—that is surprising and fresh while still convincing. This volume completes a historical masterpiece.
...outstanding ... This is a magnificent political biography, which takes its place next to Robert Blake’s Disraeli and Robert Caro’s Lyndon Johnson on the highest level. It is a huge literary challenge to make sense of lives of such public complexity: the topics of engagement must be separated out into their own discrete narratives, but an overall forward movement must be conveyed ... Moore does a superb job in conveying, towards the end of Thatcher’s time in office, the rioting in the streets, the resignations, the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the return of double-digit inflation, until the parallel narratives of themes subside into the single chronological story of betrayal and sacking. It is extraordinarily compelling.
With ethical and scholarly discipline, Moore, a political columnist of a decidedly right-wing cast for The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator...has produced a scrupulously evenhanded work. His use of evidence, absorbed from vast archival sources and hundreds of interviews, is punctilious, his judgments measured, his wit dry and sympathetic, his prose classically balanced. This sonorous, authoritative biography makes no empty claim to definitiveness. But it is a work for the ages: It will be the font from which every serious appraisal of Thatcher and Thatcher’s Britain draws ... Given the comprehensive approach Moore’s writ demands, this volume, like its predecessors, suffers something of a forest-for-the-trees problem. But Moore’s perspective shifts continually from Thatcher herself...to her advisers, her colleagues and rivals in the cabinet, her adversaries across the floor in the House of Commons and in Brussels, even her hairdresser. Only this cumulative approach can convey the interplay of Thatcher’s personality and outlook on history and the peculiar way she conducted politics ... With this masterpiece, Moore has given us Margaret Thatcher. She now belongs to history.
A successful biography should be, on top of everything else, a good read. It needs a cracking, whip-like narrative. To expect that from the third volume of a life crammed with high policy and political complexity might seem absurd. And yet this reads, for the most part, like a sophisticated thriller ... Charles Moore is one of the most partisan journalists on the right, a lifelong Thatcherite and an utterly committed hater of the BBC, for which this reviewer proudly works ... So, it isn’t with limitless personal enthusiasm that I must report that Moore has finally completed one of the most thrilling, comprehensive, fair-minded and elegantly written biographies of modern times. It is full of complex argument, and a very large cast, but it is a joy to read ... Today, we are still almost as split about Margaret Thatcher as we are about Brexit. Was she disastrous for us, or was she essential? Whichever side you take, this is the book to read.
... massively researched, elegantly written and admirably balanced ... True, [Moore's] minutely detailed account of Tory politics, with its Jacobean skirmishes and fraught cabinet reshuffles, will probably mean little to most American readers. And Moore introduces every British man (and woman) he names by noting their education, often Eton and Balliol College, Oxford...Like Thatcher, it can seem a bit stuffy and remote ... To be sure, Moore is aware of the sexism and overt misogyny Thatcher suffered throughout her career...Yet Moore himself too often casts her in a stereotypically feminine, besotted role, calling her 'girlishly effusive about Reagan' and as awkward when she met with his successor, George Bush, as 'a girl on a new date after many happy years with her previous boyfriend.' He tends to underestimate her self-confidence and exaggerate her dependence on her male courtiers. In his epilogue, he calls her 'an icon, without rival, of female leadership' but not, despite the controversies, a model of political leadership in general.
Unlike Thatcher’s previous biographers, Moore has the chance to judge her against the troubled, unsustainable world she helped create ... Moore conveys brilliantly the sense of the walls closing in: first slowly and erratically, with regular apparent reprieves for Thatcher, and then very fast ... having highlighted her fogeyishness, Moore – perhaps because he is a bit of a fogey himself – does not explore its implications. For all the awesome scale and thoroughness of his trilogy, over 20 years in the researching and writing, the shifting social texture of Britain under Thatcher is largely missing. Without it, the books fall short of being definitive ... Thatcherism, the book implies, remains as full of potential as ever. Moore criticises her governing tone as insensitive and divisive, but not the substance of what her governments did. A comparison of the Britain she promised and the country we have actually lived in since is not something this book dares to offer.
...magnificent ... Moore tells all this skilfully, and with sympathy for most of the protagonists. He could perhaps have kept his old journalistic instincts a little more under control in the footnotes, and left some Olympian judgments of people he doesn’t like to his newspaper columns: with his historian’s hat on he has given us all we need to make our own judgments. But these are second-order cavils ... [Moore] is right...to make clear the affection and respect which many who worked for Thatcher felt for this pigheaded, formidable, vulnerable, maddening, brave and patriotic woman, and how many of them really loved her even — perhaps especially — in her tragic final decline. She did not always choose her colleagues well; but she chose well when she appointed Moore to his gargantuan task.
Among the many impressive achievements of all three volumes of Mr. Moore’s splendid biography is how well he brings out the human side of such a profoundly political individual. Time and again he shows the astonishing obstacles Britain’s first woman prime minister faced ... So how will Mr. Moore’s efforts stand up in this wider debate on one of Britain’s most consequential prime ministers? Surely very well. First of all, there is the exemplary meticulousness of the research. Then there is the gracefulness of the prose, which, though formal, is rarely pompous and is an ideal match for his subject, who detested casualness. But most important, Mr. Moore has over the course of three volumes skillfully navigated the treacherous waters that are inevitable for the authorized biographer of a figure who still excites such opposite extremes of admiration and loathing. His portrait is sympathetic but not hagiographic. While he clearly admires Thatcher, her political and personal failures are not airbrushed out. Evidence is presented in a way that allows readers to draw different conclusions from his own. He clearly believes that Thatcher’s legacy, with whatever flaws there may be, will stand the test of rigorous historical scrutiny. Inevitably, over time, revisionists will present other arguments, but they will have cause to be grateful to him. For in Charles Moore this titanic figure of British history has found a biographer whose mastery of both subject and form is complete. This is a biography for the ages.
Although the author, a former editor of the Spectator and the Sunday Telegraph, is an unabashed admirer of Thatcher, his judgments are balanced and his narrative, despite its length, flows easily. Because this is an authorised biography, he has had unhindered access to the vast archives that house her papers, personal and political ... Although he is dealing with ground that has already been well-trodden, Moore, because of his meticulous research and vast range of sources, adds depth and colour to just about every aspect of what, by any measure, is one of the most remarkable political lives of the 20th century ... My one great reservation, which applies to all three volumes, is that there is very little discussion of Margaret Thatcher’s long-term legacy. She was right about many things...but there is another story to be told and one that largely explains why she was loved and loathed in equal measure. For many people, especially in the old industrial towns, the Thatcher decade was a disaster ... Thirty years after her downfall it ought to be possible to have a rational discussion of her legacy, but that is not to be found in this massive tome.
As Charles Moore’s titanic biography shows, Thatcher was a much more complicated individual than many people realised ... She seemed more regal now, almost imperial, her hair ever more bouffant, her shoulder-pads ever more colossal. And it is telling that, in stark contrast with Moore’s first two volumes, hundreds of pages go by without Britain, the British people or domestic policy being mentioned at all. As a result, the first half of Moore’s book drags more than its predecessors ... it can be pretty hard going. Then, at last, the momentum quickens ... Moore’s portrait of [Thatcher's] final years, when she was overtaken by dementia, is so exquisitely judged that even the most glacial Thatcherphobes may find themselves melting ... For as Moore’s mighty volumes have shown beyond doubt, the Iron Lady was human, after all.
Moore, who wrote with his subject’s permission and encouragement, has spoken to everyone, read everything and written a history which will stand for generations ... If nothing else, this book reveals the sheer hard grunt of running Britain in the late Eighties, Thatcher up night after night, blue fountain pen in hand, scrawling comments on the side of official papers ... Moore’s detailed, pacy and fair telling of the days which led to [Thatcher's] downfall would make a stage drama ... If a lot of this is already known from the many memoirs that have been written, then Moore at least does a fine job of bringing the story together and making it fresh. He’s moving, too, on the years after power ... Whether you find the long sections on her time in office from 1987 as interesting may depend on whether your name is in the index. They are informed, clear and heavy-going. But then so is good government. Not everything can or should be a sensation.
Dense with primary text, copious numbered endnotes, and clusters of oddly interesting footnotes, the pages...did not turn quickly --- but turn they did, with the rhythmic fascination and promised (but sometimes withheld) revelations of a fully-staged Wagnerian opera ... In this exhaustive and astonishingly detailed account of Thatcher’s third term in office until her death...Moore interweaves numerous overlapping and interdependent political issues with consummate ease, harking back at just the right moment for an average reader’s memory to earlier volumes or chapters in which the same or similar issues are previously discussed. This literary courtesy alone is enough to remove much of the intimidation one might feel in navigating through such a complex account without losing track of time and place ... In fact, Moore takes such pains in contextualizing the relevant personal and professional details of Thatcher’s career that the book almost seems to unfold in real time. Just trying to imagine a dated timeline of events in Margaret Thatcher: Herself Alone is mind-boggling; I can safely say that not a single week of that entire quarter century would have escaped his diligent research and brilliant analysis ... Love her or hate her, [Thatcher] was a real person doing real work, dedicated (as she herself put it) to the service of her country. One can say no less of Charles Moore, who took what many researchers would call an almost impossible task and gathered its countless frayed ends into a work of enduring value for generations to come.
Moore is a peerless guide to the Thatcher years because he is wholly at home in this world. The three volumes of his biography stand comparison with Robert Caro’s Life of Lyndon Johnson in their ability to show us how power works from the inside. Personal relationships at or near the top matter far more than political posturing. It would probably be wise to remember that in the years ahead ... At the same time, this book reminds us just how much has changed.
Like its predecessors, Herself Alone is monumental, magisterial and masterful ... With all her flaws, fundamental elements of Mrs. Thatcher’s political character deserve the praise Mr. Moore bestows on them ... Mrs. Thatcher’s political positions include a few surprises. She was, Mr. Moore demonstrates, an ardent believer in climate change. Nonetheless she was, without doubt, an ardent conservative, who played an outsized role in the turn to the right that has dominated Western democracies since the 1980s. As Mr. Moore demonstrates, she lit a path to our partisan, polarized present.
Moore’s massively researched, elegantly written, and admirably balanced book, covering the years from [Thatcher's] triumphant reelection in June 1987 to her fall, decline and death in 2013, does justice to her courage and complexity. True, his minutely detailed account of Tory politics, with its Jacobean skirmishes and fraught cabinet reshuffles, will probably mean little to most American readers ... In the brawling pandemonium of Washington and Brexit, I hope Thatcher’s gifts of discipline, intelligence, and dedication may finally be recognized beyond the bounds of gender.
...[an] impressive conclusion ... Drawing on primary historical documents as well as firsthand interviews with key players in Thatcher’s personal and political lives, Moore delivers a frank and weighty testament to the impact of a stateswoman whose 'vices were inseparable from her virtues.'
By virtue of his unfettered access to Margaret Thatcher, her papers, and her close associates, Moore tells a personal as well as political story not usually found in biographies of world leaders ... Moore provides a thoughtful, impeccably researched account that thoroughly documents a major figure in modern British and world history ... Moore gives everything he can in this complete and comprehensive work.