WINDS OF CHANGE by Harold Macmillan


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The caravan of Tory reminiscences has picked up another passenger. Harold Macmillan's weighty stock-taking (1914-1939) joins the recent spate of books by or about Eden, Duff Cooper, Halifax, Churchill, Amery and other public figures who managed England's profits and losses during the turbulent inter-war years. Writing a colorless, austere prose, markedly sincere and ineffably humorless, Macmillan runs the risk of often sounding like the statesman so sweetly savaged in Beyond the Fringe. But it would be folly to dismiss his chronicle for reasons of style; in many ways, the Macmillan memoir, (a concluding volume covering his performance as Prime Minister will follow), is a finely detailed, dispassionate document, notable for its comprehensiveness, political intimacy, and expertise in matters of economics and foreign policy, as well as for the extremely attentive portraits we are given of Baldwin and Chamberlain and the various Parliamentary dilemmas which caused such frustration and befuddlement in the Twenties and Thirties. Three events stand out on the crowded landscape: the post-war mood of disillusion and upheaval, the contending forces of Right and Left brought to a boiling point by the depression, and, of course, the rise of Hitler. Indeed, the latter may be credited with furnishing the real drama recorded here, for Macmillan, in his gentlemanly way, has built his summing-up around ""the drift to war,"" culminating in the Munich Crisis, a much debated subject he freshens with a revelatory point-by-point analysis. What's curiously missing, however, is the ""enraged"" Macmillan, the opponent of appeasement, we know from history or Nicolson's Diaries. An august ""objectivity"" flattens out the battlefield.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1966
Publisher: Harper & Row