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The Course of My Life
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The Course of My Life is not only the autobiography of one of the most distinguished figures of modern times, but a revealing panoply of twentieth-century political, international and social history.
Born in 1916, Edward Heath became a Conservative Member of Parliament in 1950, following a glittering Oxford and military career, and was at the heart of political life for a long time - as Chief Whip (notably during the Suez Crisis), Minister of Labour, Lord Privy Seal at the Foreign Office, Leader of the Conservative Party from 1965-75, and Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974. Since relinquishing the leadership in 1975, he has maintained a central role in world affairs, as well as pursuing his wide musical and sailing interests.
Edward Heath writes his autobiography with complete (and often very amusing) candour, offering us valuable and entertaining insights into the events of the past sixty years. He describes the importance of a united Europe, one of the driving influences in his life since he observed a Nuremberg Rally as an undergraduate, and his continuing thoughts on the subject after he took us into the European Community in the 1970s.
He discusses the changes in the Conservative Party in his period as an MP and his modernisation of it as its leader, and the major issues of domestic policy, not least the economy, the trade unions and the Troubles in Northern Ireland; these are set against his range of activities on the international stage, including his negotiations with China and Saddam Hussein, shortly before the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991. Both as a record of a momentous and unequalled career and as an important and frank document of personalities and events, The Course of My Life is as entertaining as it is revealing.
Sir Edward Richard George Heath, 1916 - 2005 was a British Conservative politician who served as Leader of the Conservative Party 1965-75 and as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1970-74. Heath studied at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1938, he went to Spain to witness the ongoing civil war and then went on to serve in the British Army during the Second World War. Heath applied for Britain to enter the European Economic Community (now the European Union) and was successful. He oversaw the completion of the decimalization of British currency in 1971, and the reorganization of the British counties. Heath angered trade unions by bringing in an Industrial Relations Act and attempting to bring in a prices and income policy. In 1973, a miners' strike caused Heath to implement the Three-Day Week to conserve electricity. With the slogan 'Who Governs Britain?' Heath called for an election in February 1974 which resulted in a hung parliament. Another election was held in October of that year and the Labour Party won by a small majority.
In his autobiography Heath is keen not to let Eurosceptics rewrite history; he emphasizes that, just as his time in charge of firing squads put him off capital punishment, so the war made him a determined European. Heath shows a dry humor and an unexpected sense of his own absurdity; there are some surprising vignettes as well, like Fidel Castro drunkenly ranting about his hero- worship of Winston Churchill, and Enoch Powell promising to break an NHS strike by importing Jamaican nurses.
What members say
By Kirstine on 01-12-15
A fine autobiography: marred by poor narration
Whatever your political leanings this autobiography is an important record of the political landscape of a large swathe of the 20th century, described with verve by someone who was there and contributed to the political history of the UK at home and abroad.
Unlike many other autobiographies he devoted quite a bit of the book to his childhood and early manhood in the belief that coming from a more humble background underscored his political convictions. He was firmly in the more moderate ‘One Nation’ wing of the Conservative party and this coloured his more conciliatory attitude to the trade unions. It is thus ironic that when PM he was unlucky to be up against trade unions with activists out to bring down the government.
Heath’s political career covered over 50 years and was filled with success and some failures. Disappointingly for him, the problems he encountered during his brief premiership over-shadowed the achievements. I leave this book with a greater respect for Heath and admiration for his sheer stamina in coping with the pressure of office and his service to his country well into old age. His rather stiff persona as PM contrasts with the descriptions of his evident enjoyment of life socialising with his many friends and pursuing his love of music and sailing.
I found this a very interesting, well-written and informative book that reminded me of many events that I lived through. It is such a pity that the narration is so poor: probably the worst narrator I’ve ever listened to. He peppered the book with mis-pronunciations of common words, inserts pauses at weird places, puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable and sometimes sounded like someone learning to read. The names of well-known politicians are repeatedly mangled displaying surprising ignorance. I can’t understand how the producer or editor of this recording allowed such howlers to escape notice. His incompetence partly spoiled an otherwise first class book.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
By Mark Hillary on 14-07-16
Fascinating history - especially Europe!
The book is great... Heath is sometimes overlooked, but he was a far more liberal Tory than Thatcher and his story is fascinating. The one downside of this book is that it appears to be read by an American using an English accent. Mostly the performance is fine, but he continually pronounces British names and places incorrectly, which is distracting. Surely the producer should have checked this?
By Sue C on 11-11-14
I found this interesting because Heath was active in politics around the time I was born and was working his way in the parliamentary system while I was growing up and unaware of what a very hard worker he was . actually was not much interested in what was going on until Kennedy was shot. He came from blue collar stock and had to work incredibly hard to get to university and then find employment until he was elected to parliament.
His inability to control industrial unrest forced him out of 10 Downing St. He was much more valuable to the conservatives while he was an MP and Chief whip. He was disappointing as a PM and I think he never got over the failure.
This autobiography gives a vivid account of how parliament worked behind the scenes post war, during Suez and during Britain's fight to join the common market. He was reserved about his private life and he doesn't shed much light on it in his book apart from his abiding love of music, about which he knew a great deal.Who knew this man loved fast cars and taking the faithful party workers on pub crawls, . The narrator made some unforgivable pronunciation errors and chopped up some sentences. If you are interested in parliamentary history 1950-70 then you will enjoy this.