This was a really informative and interesting read that I thoroughly enjoyed.This was on my list to read before I saw a brief interview with Cherie Blair when the book first came out in the US, and that interview only made me want to read the book even more.Mrs. Blair offers a great “behind the scenes” glimpse of life at #10 Downing Street (technically life at #11 Downing Street, since that is where the Blair family actually lived), not to mention a solid portrait (both personal and professional) of Tony Blair, including the experiences that have molded his personality, values, and political career.I particularly liked the fact that some of the secretaries at Downing Street are referred to as “garden girls” because their office is located near the garden.
There are two sides to every story, but after reading this I can see why the British press may not have liked her.She is obviously a very bright, strong willed, independent woman who often seems to speak first and think second, and who no doubt refused to be cast in what is most likely the expected role of a quiet, compliant Prime Minister’s wife.(Not knowing the first thing about the experiences of the other wives who preceded her, I could be wrong, but I doubt it.An example of her speaking possibly too quickly is when at her final departure from Downing Street, much to her husband’s chagrin, her response to the reporters was, “Bye – I won’t miss you!”).It also seems to me that her personality appears very different from her more subdued husband.
Being the Anglophile that I am, I enjoyed her descriptions of the members of the royal family.The references to British politics, particularly their legal/judicial system, were a little confusing, but then again I read those parts of the book pretty quickly.
It’s also always very interesting to me to find out how others view the US and our leaders.I enjoyed reading about her opinions of both the Clintons and the Bushes and it was interesting to compare the lifestyles and resources of the White House to #10 Downing Street too.Apparently the First Lady is afforded many more resources than the Prime Minister’s wife.I also enjoyed reading about the Prime Minister’s weekend home, Chequers, which I assume is the British version of the President’s Camp David.Cherie’s experiences with other heads of state were at times apparently very memorable and were amusing to read about.Obviously there was tension with Blair’s press secretary Alastair Campbell, which Cherie makes no attempt to deny.(I am certain that if I ever read anything Campbell wrote about his experience with the Blairs, his perspective would be the complete opposite and Cherie would not be painted in a good light).
I thought it was interesting that Cherie spent more time reflecting on her introductions with the pope (she is Catholic) than she did discussing the subway bombs in London.Her trips to the Vatican were obviously very significant to her (and understandably so).Her own background, including her challenging childhood in Liverpool, sheds light on her outspokenness and personality as well.(Her parents were both actors, and she grew up in her paternal grandmother’s house with her mother after her father left them, which was a tremendous influence on her need to be self supporting later in life).
I would recommend this to other Anglophiles, those who enjoy biographies, and those who enjoy current events.I can see where Cherie might rub some the wrong way, but I liked her feistiness.