The “invisible man” gets his well-deserved due in this thorough new biography.



Detailed, philosophical biography of the unprepossessing, longtime leader of the British Labour Party, who laid out a “new deal” for the postwar Britons and cut imperial ties.

Winning control of the British government from 1945 to 1951, in what became known as the “post-war consensus,” Clement Attlee (1883-1967) and his Labour Party engineered the much-lauded National Health Service, propelled the United Nations and NATO, and granted independence to India, Burma, and Ceylon, as well as letting loose Palestine and Persia. In this thoughtful new appraisal, Bew (History and Foreign Policy, War Studies Department, King’s Coll., London; Castlereagh: The Biography of a Statesman, 2012, etc.) delves into a richly complicated postwar British society and politics to show how this once-underestimated politician can lend valuable lessons to the new generation of Labour, crushed in the election defeat of 2015. Rather incredibly, Attlee was able to beat the previous prime minister, his former ally Winston Churchill, in 1945, and preside over “a radical government in an age of austerity.” A 30-something captain during the Mesopotamian Campaign of World War I who had taken part in the Gallipoli landings, Attlee was wounded in the buttocks. A slight Victorian gentleman of the upper classes, he had studied classics at Oxford and converted to socialism after discovering the work of William Morris, John Ruskin’s disciple and author of the influential News from Nowhere. Attlee championed the rights of the working classes, abandoning his legal studies for full-time work for the socialist cause in ethnically diverse East London. Bew gradually pursues Attlee’s embrace of national politics as he gained traction as a “reliable foot soldier” under Britain’s first Labour Party PM Ramsay MacDonald, then bided his time as leader of Labour during the next decade’s setbacks and acted as Churchill’s deputy in government during World War II. Labour’s “jaw-dropping” victory of 1945 ensured that Attlee was not just “a passenger of history,” but a major protagonist.

The “invisible man” gets his well-deserved due in this thorough new biography.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-020340-5

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?