Old Man Goriot: 100 novels

I am reading the Telegraph’s “100 novels everyone should read” list, and my latest review is about Old Man Goriot. You can follow my progress on the twitter hashtag #100novels. This review will contain spoilers.

Old Man Goriot

Old Man Goriot focuses heavily on three characters: Rastignac, a young student determined to break into Paris high society; Vautrin, a jovial criminal who takes Rastignac under his wing; and the titular Goriot himself. Despite being the title character, we get very little from Goriot and see his tragedy play out mainly through the eyes of Rastignac.

The novel is one of those rich, meandering tapestries full of mesmerising detail. Indeed, Balzac is generally credited with founding realism in European literature. The book is not stylised or romanticised in any way, but rather depicts the thoughts and actions of people who may as well be real.

As such, it makes for a depressing read. Goriot’s story is not a happy one. A hardworking small businessman, he makes enough money to ensure his daughters are ‘well married’ and they enter a higher social strata. They quickly snub their father, except when they need more money. Goriot sacrifices more and more of his own well-being to try and help his daughters with little reward. Eventually, penniless, he suffers a stroke and dies slowly – but his daughters are too busy attending an important high society ball and do not visit him before he finally dies. They also do not attend his funeral, choosing instead to let a medical student and Rastignac (his fellow boarder) organise a paupers grave.

The way this desire to ‘go up in the world’ and achieve greater wealth and fame corrupts people is played out again in the character of Rastignac. From a poor rural area of France, he has high ambitions but quickly realises you need wealth and connections to even be noticed. He takes money from his family, that they can ill afford, and even contemplates becoming an accessory to murder.

Despite the fairly horrible actions of the characters, they are well-fleshed out and surprisingly sympathetic. Poverty is shown to be a grim and horrible thing, and it is no surprise that people are desperate to escape to the glittering world of wealth and good fortune.

Indeed, with our own inequality of wealth rising, this book has some surprisingly poignant moments. The poverty of the boarding house, the desperation of most of the characters to escape, and the prejudice the wealthier class has against the poorer ones – even to the extent of daughters turning against their father – all feels sadly modern.

Buy Old Man Goriot

100 novels: The Golden Notebook

I am reading the Telegraph’s “100 novels everyone should read” list, and my latest review is about The Golden Notebook. You can follow my progress on the twitter hashtag #100novels.

This review will contain spoilers.

The Golden Notebook

Buy The Golden Notebook on Amazon

This is going to be one of the most difficult novels for me to write a review about, because I’m still not sure I really understood what it was about.

First up, Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and The Golden Notebook is generally considered to be her most influential book. It’s also a ‘feminist classic’, although Doris distances herself from that title in her introduction, saying:

But nobody so much as noticed this central theme, because the book was instantly belittled […] as being about the sex war, or was claimed by women as a useful weapon in the sex war.

I have been in a false position ever since, for the last thing I have wanted to do was refuse to support women.

The central theme she refers to is that of ‘breakdown’ or ‘cracking up’. In other words, what we now refer to as ‘mental illness’.

And yet, reading through The Golden Notebook, it is easy to see how people arrived at the conclusion it was about the plight of women; the way women are driven by mad by circumstance and by the double standards they are held to. She also, in her introduction from June 1971, mentions her belief that:

the whole world is being shaken into a new pattern by the cataclysms we are living through: probably by the time we are through, if we do get through at all, the aims of Women’s Liberation will look very small and quaint.

Alas, reading the book in 2014 we seem to be tackling many of the same issues: endless (confusing) wars, a complete lack of faith in any ideological movement, an absence of hope… and of course, the same old problems of racism and sexism.

The solution that the central character arrives at is to go mad; perhaps the only sane response in a world of increasing horror.

And yet, despite tackling issues still alive today, such as racism and sexism, the book does seem to be written from a time long long ago. An enormous gulf separated me from the central characters. Their obsession with the Communist Party, for a start. Few people I know would ever invest much time and energy into supporting a political party. We are too aware that they are all corrupt, all ‘as bad as each other’. We support certain aims, we accept that one might be slightly less evil than another about issues we care about. But on the whole, nobody really believes politicians care about the country, or the citizens of a country… let alone the state of the world.

So where are the solutions? We face a crisis in terms of climate change, with people already dying. We are so addicted to petroleum that we are prepared to blow up swathes of the country to extract it. And the level of inequality between the wealthiest and the poorest is such that the top 0.7% of people own 41% of the worlds wealth.

We can’t trust our political parties to sort it out, revolutions rarely work and have a high cost in blood shed and violence, and peaceful protest is ignored.

If there is an answer, I believe it lies in each of us striving to be better, to think outside our own circle of friends and family, to use whatever power and privilege we have to push forward our collective wellbeing.

In The Golden Notebook, however, Anna — and to a large extent Doris — is dealing with the failure of the dreams of peace and plenty that the Communist Party promised. In it’s own way, as well, it’s about the loss of teenage naivete. We all believe we can change the world when we are teenager, and then we grow up and find ourselves trapped in the same patterns of power that our parents dealt with. Yet I think, for that generation that came of age during the Second World War, it was a far more crushing blow.

In many ways, The Golden Notebook is a depressing, hopeless book. Several characters make reference to the silent despair of the majority, quietly going crazy all across London. Yet perhaps there is some hope, that complete breakdown and reformation is the only solution… and in that, the breakdown of Anna Wulf and Saul Green represents the greater breakdown of society. When they give each other the first lines of the next novel, it is the formation of something new.

I found the book tough going. The characters are not sympathetic. Doris accurately represents the part of mental illness that has you endlessly circling the same ideas and motifs, again and again… and again. By the third ‘affair with a married man’ you are frustrated and slightly bored with the whole scenario. And yet, despite that, I found myself unable to put the book down. It opened my ideas to a world very different from mine, and forced me to think about things that made me uncomfortable.

All in all, I would recommend The Golden Notebook to others, with the caveat that you probably won’t actually enjoy it.

Other reviews of The Golden Notebook

The Home and the World

I am reading the Telegraph’s “100 novels everyone should read” list. The Lord of the Rings is number 100. You can follow my progress on the twitter hashtag #100novels.

This review will contain spoilers.

The Home and the World

This was the first book on the list that I had not previously read. I was excited to read it, as, with the exception of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, I have not read any books by Indian authors.

The book itself deals with three principal characters: Nikhil, a wealthy Indian who typifies rational, ‘modern’ thinking and is opposed to violence, Sandip, who seems to represent the Swadeshi Movement, and upholds greed and strength as positive traits, and Nikhil’s wife, Bimala, who initially loves her husband as a traditional Indian wife but is then charmed by Sandip and becomes passionately attracted to him. The book is made up of different chapters, written by these three main characters in first person.

I struggled with this book for two reasons. The first is that I’m ignorant of much of the political background of this time. Basic research tells me that various factions within India were trying to throw off British rule, but the more subtle variations of this are something I haven’t encountered before. This, of course, is entirely my own problem. As a white westerner, I was taught a lot about European and American history and very little about the history of other places. As a book that revealed my own ignorance and encouraged me to do more research, I am glad I read it.

The second reason I struggled was the writing itself. I found it melodramatic. Some people will love the poetic, rich language and endless metaphors, but I personally found it exhausting to read.

I could not understand why Bimala was attracted to Sandip, and could not emphasise with Sandip at all. Even Nikhil, who seems the most rational and likeable, veered awfully close to martyrdom. This may be, in part, because Sandip and Nikhil are mouthpieces for political positions that I am unfamiliar with.

I thought one of the most interesting background characters was Bara Rani, Bimala’s sister-in-law. Whilst Bara Rani can be cutting and sarcastic, she is also clearly lonely. I felt that if Bimala had tried to form a relationship with her, she would not have been so isolated and would have a much better perspective on what was happening with her and Sandip. Instead, Bimala was torn between a powerful man and her husband, who, although gentle, still had a lot of power over her  due to the traditional marriage structure. Bara Rani ended up as fallout, and at the end I felt far sorrier for her – who had possibly just lost her last important friend in the world – than I did for Bimala, whose concern for Nikhil was never more than what tradition demanded of her, and seemed to have no substance.

The Home and the World

The book, as the title suggests, revolves around the domestic sphere, that of the home but follows the impact that the outside – the political world – has on this home. We, as the reader, don’t go outside the house at all; we essentially experience purdah. The tales that come back are twisted through the first person perspective of the various narrators. The outside world is violent, and many citizens experience poverty. Sandip, who initially comes across as overly grandiose and full of bravado, is revealed to actually wield extraordinary power. He inspires his followers to acts of violence and intimidation, but in the end his power fails within the home.

When Bimala’s ‘motherly’ instinct kicks in, to try and free Amulya of Sandip’s influence, there is a turning point within the novel. Bimala suddenly acts under her own initiative – not performing the role of dutiful wife, or obeying the every command of Sandip, but instead setting about trying to right her wrongs. There is a moment where we sense that the love between her and Nikhil may be restored, stronger this time as Bimala will fall in love of her own free will.

But then the end of the book happens. It is sudden and inconclusive. Nikhil, attempting to be heroic, is injured and possibly killed as he tried to service a higher ideal. Nobody really wins.

I’d be interested to know how the reception of this novel has changed over time – it was originally written in 1916. It obviously dealt with some highly charged political issues, and the character of Bimala is particularly interesting given the timeframe, and the fact that it was written by a man. In many ways, the freedom of India seems to be mirrored through the freedom of Bimala; not to be swayed by any extreme political posturing, but instead a kind of pragmatism about what to keep and what to leave of her own traditions and those of her country.

I would be very interested to hear what other people thought of this novel! It’s definitely inspired me to find out more about this period of Indian history.



The Lord of the Rings

I am reading the Telegraph’s “100 novels everyone should read” list. The Lord of the Rings is number 100. You can follow my progress on the twitter hashtag #100novels.

This review will contain spoilers.

The Lord of the Rings

I first read The Lord of the Rings in my mid-teens and I will be honest: I hated it. It was long, boring, and over-written. The characters were cut-outs, and worse, the story was drearily predictable. High/Mythic Fantasy has never been a genre I’ve enjoyed (with a few notable exceptions), and LotR is pretty much the height of what I hate about that genre.

As a result: when I saw that LotR was the first book I needed to read to start the challenge I was tempted to say: I’ve already read that, write a rant about how much I hated it, and move on. However, I am now no longer in my mid-teens, and ten years is a long time. So I gritted my teeth, borrowed my Dad’s dog-eared doorstop version of the book, and dived back into Middle Earth.

The first thing I thought: 1954? That was a long time ago. It’s good to remember the context of a book, to try and take it on its own terms. So yes; the book is over-written, but so were many books back then. The language is mythic, over-wrought, descriptive to a fault, and the last book The Return of the King is almost biblical in tone. We see the characters distantly, through the way Tolkein describes them. With the exception of Sam we get very little insight into what the characters are actually thinking, and take on faith that when Gimli announces his love for Galadriel he is telling the truth, or that Faramir can win over Eowyn in about ten sentences. There is a sense of fate at work, that the characters are just spinning along a pre-set path and none can really step out of line.

And that, of course, is where Tolkein and I have a falling out. Because Tolkein writes of a world in which the good are good and the evil are evil. A world where corruption comes from outside influences: evil is an entity, a physical, tangible force in the world, represented by race (orcs and goblins), physical manifestation (the Ring Wraiths have become monsters, as has Gollum) and inanimate objects (the Ring). Where Kings are Kings because their character has been set long ago, carried down a blood-line that auto-magically means they are heroic, noble and worthy.

This is much of the reason I hate High Fantasy – it crudely aligns itself with old superstitions that have allowed aristocrats to dominate and persecute other people for hundreds of years. The same ‘blood will tell’ argument has been used to uphold racist and classist viewpoints. It has been used to keep cruel, in-bred lunatics in power in many different countries. It has even been used to persecute women; because when the most important thing to worry about is the legitimacy of your heir, women become chattels and female adultery a terrible crime (whilst male adultery is less penalised).

On my second read-through, I still found myself bumping up against this problem. However, the book does have one saving grace: Sam.

Sam is the only character we get inside the head of. He is a servant, yet his heroism swiftly outstrips most of the rest of the team. He manages to wear the ring without becoming corrupted, he fights and badly damages Shelob and by the end of the novel he is more or less carrying Frodo. If this were a modern novel, Sam would be the hero, no questions asked.

Lego Shelob attacking Sam and Frodo

Alas, one of the positive character traits that Tolkien imparts to Sam is that of ‘knowing his place’. Sam views Frodo as a God-like figure. His declarations of love are all too often couched in the tones of a servant addressing a master. He repeatedly says that he is stupid and humble, and that Frodo is Masterful and wonderful.

After the quest, Sam goes back to gardening and a marriage, whilst most of the Fellowship acquire new titles and new positions of status. Even Merry and Pippin acquire a certain presence in the Shire, arrayed as they are in princely armour and carrying swords. Tolkien does not write this in a way that ‘hurts’ Sam, we have no sense that Sam desires anything more than a nice dinner, a loving wife, a Master to serve, and a healthy garden. But that, of course, is part of the problem. The ‘noble’ characters are all allowed to level up, to gain wisdom and standing and greater responsibility. Sam is just a servant, he can never want or amount to more than that, and his heroism and love is no more than what any good servant would give to a master.

Samwise Gamgee

The everyone-in-his-place attitude grates consistently throughout the novel, and is the main reason I will never ‘enjoy’ this book. To me, everyone has the ability and right to move forward in life, to gain wisdom and responsibility. In fact, it’s a key part of a person’s happiness and satisfaction. Life-long learning, coupled with professional recognition? Why should that be limited to certain jobs? If everyone felt inspired and motivated to improve we would have made many more advancements, and work would be a lot less soul-destroying that it can be.

The problem with ‘world-building’

Of course, from a technical perspective, LotR has one major plus point. The world-building is incredible. The amount of work Tolkein put into every detail of Middle-Earth is probably unequalled since. He invented languages, penned epic histories, worked out all the legends of such a world. The characters are frequently just mouthpieces for one fact or another, and entire pages are given over to songs written in unreadable languages.

I, for one, don’t give a crap about any of that.

Look: if you are writing a Fantasy novel, world-building helps. No doubt about it. Attention to detail helps the reader immerse themselves in the story and really believe in the story you are telling. But details should be sparingly added; like spices to a nice meal. A touch of legend here, a couple of made-up words here – to impart flavour and give the meat of your story a bit of zing. But if your dinner contains more pepper than beef? There is, I’m afraid, a problem.


Of course, Tolkien’s world has gone on to inspire countless new stories. Most of them, I will say, are probably better than LotR. Like many readers, I skipped vast chunks of unnecessary detail. The inclusion of Tom Bombadil left me confused and irritated. What is his purpose? Why is he there? He’s obviously important – Gandalf states at the end he intends to spend some time chatting with him – yet his purpose in the story is to provide no more than a brief deus-ex-machina styled rescue, give the hobbits some food, and then send them on their way. He is immune to the ring, and yet is unable to carry it to the Mountain of Doom because… he needs to get home to his wife.

There are many interludes like this. The fact that all the Elves and Ring Bearers are going across the Sea? A mystery never explained or given any focus. What’s the point? Who cares? The story is about the epic quest and the battle against evil, not about the Elves and their confused decision to abandon Middle Earth and allow the ‘Age of Men’ to start.

Now, many people will disagree with me. LotR has thousands of dedicated fans. It is the second best-selling novel of all time. The good in the story obviously outweighs the bad for most people. But for me? I find it rambling, disjointed and I disagree with the fundamental principles that underpin Tolkien’s world view. It was never going to work for me.

Buy a copy of Smokey Days: The Rising Wind

Magic was the way forward. Oro could not balance forever on this knife-edge of survival. Tabbi knew disaster approached. The suicides, the slow ceding of control to the Ludd corporation, and that nameless dread that lurked in everyone if you dug deep enough. The Gheists were the key. Would save them from themselves. Would save Denise.

Man of the hour

This story was written for the terribleminds flash-fiction challenge. The aim was to smash two sub-genres together and somehow come up with a story out of the messy remains. My genres (randomly generated) were: Sci-Fi Humor/Satire and Superhero. (Many thanks to Burning-liquid for the image of the planet.)

Man of the Hour

His cape glittered in the light thrown off by the fire. To the screams of the crowd, the Golden Hawk smashed through a window of the burning school. A gout of flame exploded out behind him. Someone in the crowd fainted, whilst others quickly made bets on how many of the children the Hawk would rescue. The worst odds were on none, but those who bet the Hawk would manage to save all twenty were also playing a risky game.Ambulance sirens wailed and throbbed. Mrs Jones, wrapped in a dressing gown and wearing fuzzy cat slippers, launched into a long monologue about each of the children trapped inside — focused mainly on their predisposition to take her bin and move it halfway down the street on bin day.

Then, to gasps of wonder, the Golden Hawk reappeared. Children clung to his arms, his legs, his torso, like scorpion babies clutching their mother. His cape fluttered over them.

Bookies groaned as they counted the number of children, but started to pay out. Winners grinned and praised the Hawk. Paramedics rushed to get oxygen masks on the children. The Golden Hawk saluted as the photographers rushed to get their shot, then gently lifted the last child, kissed it on the top of its head and passed it to a reporter. Before anyone could ask any questions, the Hawk leapt into the air and zig-zagged away.

“I’m telling you,” Chambers said. “The reporters don’t give a damn how that fire took hold. All they are talking about is the same old, same old. Who is the Hawk? Where does he come from? Where does he go? What if he turns into a super-villain? They don’t care about the financial situation of the school, and how come it ended up with exposed wires and plywood so old it was turning into dust.”

The Prime Minister opened a bottle of incredibly expensive water and sniffed it dubiously. “I do wish we would hurry up and arrive at this Alpha Centuri 95-whatever it is.”

“Another twenty five years yet,” Chambers said. “And in the meantime, the deficit must be kept down. You know that, with all due respect.”

“Of course, of course,” sighed the Prime Minister. He carefully poured the bottled water into the cat bowl on his desk. Jessie, his Russian Blue, jumped onto the table and started to lap the water. “The bloody deficit. I just don’t understand why we had to sell off the whole of England to make a repayment on it.”

“We owed twenty-five trillion pounds to the Chinese,” Chambers said. “And they cashed their IOU.”

“Yes, but I thought one of those, you know, African countries owed us a pretty penny or too.”

“The previous government,” Chambers said. He poured himself a glass of port. “You know that too, sir, with all due respect.”

The Prime Minister brushed down his suit. “The Hawk won’t satisfy them forever,” he said. “We need to get something else in there. The Sentinel has been asking difficult questions again.”

“You didn’t answer them, did you?” Chambers said, horrified.

“Of course not,” the Prime Minister said. He scratched Jessie on the head, and watched her eyes crinkle up. “But all those children died when they reached the hospital. Some mix-up with the paperwork or something. They ended up going in for a heart bypass, and then half of them caught some kind of super-bug and the other half starved to death. We need more nurses, Chambers!”

“Well, if you’d bloody privatised it when I told you to, it wouldn’t be our problem, would it?”

“They public wouldn’t go for it,” the Prime Minister stood up and paced uneasily. “Look, Chambers, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking…”

“Bad for your health, sir,” Chambers said with a frown.

“Well, here’s the thing. If we sold off England to pay our debt to the Chinese, how come the Chinese still had to head off to Xerion Han 45-whatever it was?”

“Oh,” Chambers said. “Because the Chinese owed three hundred trillion to the Japanese.”

“But the Japanese are on their way to—”

“Delta Five, yes, I know. You have to understand, sir, that the debt situation on Earth had become very complex.”

“All I want to know is…”


“Who exactly is left on Earth?”

Ricardo Brandon threw his champagne glass at the wall.

“No, no, no!” he said. “I want England to be a hedge maze, get it right! The biggest hedge maze in the world! And I want lions in it, real lions mind you. Not ones made out of bushes.” He glowered at the map in front of him. “America… you might as well leave Las Vegas alone. Good memories. But get rid of the other cities. Actually, build me a palace in New York. We can go there on the weekends.”

The butler bowed and hurried out to make sure the servants were aware. With a staff of five hundred, it was difficult to co-ordinate people across the whole of Bandon’s vast estate, but the butler couldn’t help feeling pleased. Thanks to his position, he’d been able to stay on Earth when almost ten billion people had been evicted.

Brandon sat down in his leather chair and stared gloomily out of the window. He’d won. He was the richest man in the world. In fact he was one of the only men in the world.

Then he brightened up. He had an outpost in Alpha Centuri 957, and had set up a Real Estate company there. He phoned them now.”

“Hey Brian, how’s it going? Just wanted to check up on the profits.”

“Great news sir,” Brian replied. “Profits are up 12%!”


I’m taking a quick break from the A-Z challenge to write something about Margaret Thatcher, who died (you may have missed the news…) on the 8th April.

First, a disclaimer. I was born in 1984 which means I was not alive when she came to power, nor was I alive during the Falklands war, and I was six years old when she resigned. I did not see closure of the mines, the clashes with those on strike, nor did I really understand the IRA. That she called Mandela a terrorist and was close friends with Pinochet meant nothing to me until much later. The Prime Minister that I remember, at an age when politics was just starting to be something of interest, was John Major, and later, of course, Tony Blair (I remember the great joy when he came to power, and the endless disillusionment that followed).

However: Thatcher cast a long shadow. Partly, this had nothing to do with her policies. She would have been memorable even if she had done and changed nothing, simply by dint of being the first female leader in a modern Western democracy. Even the language of the eulogies is different for a female prime minister – she is ‘matriarch’, a ‘lady’, she is either loved or hated. There is a personal element to the praise and to the attacks that I cannot believe a male politician would draw. All politicians are hated by someone; Osbourne is certainly hated at the moment. But only a female one could be called a witch, only a female politician would have her beauty praised or condemned (Can you imagine us standing around talking of what a ‘great beauty’ David Cameron was in his day?), front pages bent over themselves to include a mention of her gender (count how many started with the phrase “the woman who…”). Thatcher herself traded on her image as a housewife and mother. She shared recipes, and let fall homely old wives sayings.

Sadly, the fact that a woman took on a position of such power, and a role that was so traditionally masculine, meant very little to most women. The pay gap got worse. Child benefit was frozen. Thatcher made only eight women ministers, and only one rose higher than Junior Minister.

In addition to being a woman, Thatcher was also memorable for the fact she was the first Prime Minister to operate in a media-rich world. We have striking iconic images of her, we have footage of the Falklands, and at the time news became more instant, and was shared with each other. As a population, I think, we became invested in the story, in the history, that developed around us and that we were a part of. Politics mattered to everyone in the eighties – or that is the impression I get.

So much for who she was. What about what she did?

She destroyed the unions and devastated the economies of towns built around mining. This is the thing that echoed down the years. Those towns have never recovered. Inequality and poverty rose under Thatcher’s leadership. Unemployment hit record highs and has never recovered – not during the ‘boom time’ of the eighties and not since she left office.

Unemployment is a figure tossed around. When it goes up and down by a few percent it is easy to forget that we are talking about real lives. At around the same time unemployment went up, ‘welfare’ became an issue. The idea that everyone deserved to be helped when they fell on hard times was replaced by inflammatory comments about skivers. Weirdly, this idea – of people that actively sought to avoid working by ‘faking’ disability – has no proof behind it. The amount of money spent on unemployment and disability benefit is absolutely trifling compared to the benefits that go to people that are in work, but don’t get paid enough to live on. And all of it is dwarfed by the amount of money that goes on pensions. (But hey, why let facts get in the way of a good hate session?)

Thatcher espoused neoliberal politics – much like Ronald Reagan. The focus of neoliberalism is complete faith in the free market. As a result, Thatcher privatised many public industries starting with British Telecom, taking in gas, coal, oil and nuclear power and finally the railways – although that final one ended up being implemented by her successor. The results were either wildly successful or a complete disaster, depending on which side of the political spectrum you fall. Generally, it seems to be split along lines of wealth – if you had enough money to take advantage of ‘increased competition’ you found prices dropping, but for ‘small consumers’ prices actually rose. British Gas, after being privatised, almost immediately began a much harsher system of penalising people that couldn’t pay, resulting in many people being cut off.

Another side of privatisation was the selling of almost all the council houses and not buying or building more. The net upshot of that was a crazed housing boom, and more recently the housing crash. Nowadays getting on to the ‘housing ladder’ is extraordinarily difficult for less wealthy young people, and a huge chunk of housing benefit goes straight into the pockets of wealthy landlords. The result is either years of paying outrageously high rents, or returning to the homes of parents – resulting in the ‘boomerang generation’.

The problem, of course, is that privatised companies are only good to those that can afford them. Much of the social apparatus runs at a loss. Housing for those that would otherwise be homeless, social care for the elderly and the ill, money to help the less able live a rich and rewarding lives. These things will never make a profit.

But this, of course, is the legacy of Thatcher. That those who struggle should be left to fall. That poverty is the fault of those who are victims to it. That the economy is everything and happiness is nothing. That the rich should be feted with tax cuts and the easing of regulations, that labour should be cheap and flexible, that the working class is just another resource — and a plentiful one at that. That the lives of people can be reduced to a set of figures: those that contribute and those who take, with no compassion, no nuance and no understanding of what really matters.