How UK Political Turmoil Influenced My Reading

A snap UK general election was called by Prime Minister Theresa May on April 18th 2017, giving less than two months until the polls on June 8th.  Completely fed up with the awful state of British politics, I’d already sought solace/reassurance from my book reading. I’ve come to realise just how much the state of affairs in the country, has directly influenced the type of books I’ve read in the last two years.

During the 80s I adored the British comedy satire Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister TV series, and had the complete works on my bookcase for years, though had never read them. I started “The Complete Yes Minister” at the end of February 2017 inspired by the awful state of British politics today. I was strangely comforted by incidents mirroring events now, and knowing we had got through those tough times and survived. I’m able in my late forties to see through the facade of the face of politics. As a result I found the dialogue even funnier, because it seemed to reflect what I was thinking about government in general today.  I finished Yes Minister just before the election was called, and as the campaigning intensified I read “The Complete Yes Prime Minister”. It was startling to find Jim Hacker had been elevated from Minister to Prime Minister in EXACTLY the same way as Theresa May. No public vote but by party manoeuvres, and like May the fictional PM spoke of having the country’s mandate to govern! I found it fascinating that a TV show from thirty years before, reflected precisely what had happened in the Conservative Party with regard to Theresa May. And at times the scenarios within my book gave uncanny explanations of arguments going on now. You couldn’t help see through the facade of political speak which was very refreshing, and I found my reading material much better than the ghastly party electioneering of the day. I finished it four days before the polls opened. Between these two books I read an original text copy of H G Wells “War of the Worlds”, mainly because I’d seen a staged musical of it and heard a radio play version as well. It was interesting to realise the artistic license used in both. But the irony of the book title and the undoubted artistic license of election promises made, were not lost on me either.

The day after the election I embarked on reading the complete Chronicles of Narnia, finding the idea of inhabiting a fictional land far better than listening about the real one I was in. Take what you want from that statement. I distinctly remember starting The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as a kid but don’t recall finishing it, the others I had never attempted. So I decided to fill a gap in my childhood reading knowledge, and from 9th June to 30th October 2017 I enjoyed the adventures found in Aslan’s land of Narnia. As I read the seven books of C S Lewis I also studied Michael Ward’s “The Narnia Code C.S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens”. A very absorbing book that helped me understand the symbolism and dynamics within the stories in a much deeper way. I rounded off my childhood fictional reading with Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows” another book I’d started but never finished as a child.

Since December 2017 I’ve enjoyed some adult fiction from authors Barbara Wilson, Maeve Binchy, Santa Montefiore, and Matt Haig. I’ve also re-read a childhood purchase of Wilson Rawls “Hunters of Cherokee Country” originally titled “Where The Red Fern Grows” an American classic I believe. But the rumbles of news from the United States especially with regard to President Trump’s policies, has focused my eye on the American book purchases on our bookshelves. As a devoted fan of the TV drama The West Wing with a fascination for the Kennedy era, its little wonder there is a distinct political slant to the American section. For several months of 2018 I immersed myself in “Happy Times” by Lee Radziwill; “Thanks For The Memories Mr President by Helen Thomas; “Say Goodbye To America” by Matthew Smith; The Kennedy White House Family Life & Pictures 1961-63” by Carl Sferrazza Anthony and “George & Laura Portrait of An American Marriage” by Christopher Andersen. All offered an interesting take regarding the business of US government and its effect on people, seen from the viewpoint of a family member (Radziwill sister of Jackie Kennedy), the press core (Helen Thomas), historical researchers and a biographer (Christopher Andersen).

In late October I returned to a very British subject matter, the diaries of Adrian Mole! Over three months I’ve followed Adrian from age 13 ¾ to 40, through teenage angst to treatment for prostate cancer, broken marriages, fatherhood, employment/lack of it and insolvency. Once again I’ve read about tough economic times and been reminded that the nation/people somehow managed to survive them. In this dark crazy turbulent world, it’s good to be reminded of that. The books act like a social commentary of the UK since 1981 which in itself is fascinating and deserves a blog of its own.

 

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