I am a huge fan of Margaret Thatcher. I admire her conviction, her courage, and above all, her policies. I find her to be a riveting public speaker and, as a television and radio programme interviewee, she never fails to hold my complete attention. Given my respect and admiration of her, it is very difficult for me to speak critically of her memoir. But I feel I have a duty to prospective readers to "tell it like it is", and so I will frankly give my impressions here. Let me start off by saying I read this book from cover to cover, from the first page until the last. I did not skip through sections that were difficult, nor did I read material out of its sequential order. My impressions of the book therefore reflect both its contents and my approach to reading it.
I very much enjoyed the first two thirds of this book, from Thatcher's first term as prime minister up until 1987. Her accounts of the Falklands war and the miner's strike are both informative entertaining. Where the book drags on (and on and on) is in describing the "situation in Scotland", the "Irish problem", the "German problem", tax policies, the ERM, EMU, and endless European summits, councils, conferences, joint declarations, and draft communique's. Margaret Thatcher is nothing if not thorough in telling the story of absolutely everything she could recall from her time as prime minister. Much of it, however, makes for extremely tedious reading. This book would have been well served by a dose of judicious editing. I spent the majority of my time reading about discussions with other politicians and detailed analysis of policy proposals. I would have preferred that Thatcher focused on what was actually done. Having said all that, the book is organized topically (i.e. according to subject) so you have the option of skipping the parts that do not interest you (as I understand many reviewers have). Mrs. Thatcher helpfully includes a list of 135 of the most commonly used acronyms and abbreviations that are found in her book, though I found several more not on the list.
Despite its problem with being long-winded and overly detailed at times, I still think you should read this book for three main reasons: 1) To understand precisely what happened during Margaret Thatcher's time as prime minister (as told from her perspective); 2) To truly understand her views on social, as well as monetary and fiscal policies; and 3) If you plan on reading further books from this time period (the 1980's). Like many difficult books that I have read, The Downing Street Years has ultimately proved worthwhile. It is tedious at times, and difficult (sections titled "keeps raining all the time" and "a long slog" offer hints). But in the end, I am better off having read this book. I understand what Mrs. Thatcher stood for, how she saw the world, and what she did during her time as prime minister. Much like Margaret Thatcher herself, however, my patience for European Community summits, conferences, and councils is at an end. Perhaps that is for the best. 5/5