Book Review – something sensational to read in the train

Some find Gyles Brandreth irritating; others admire his wit, erudition and tenacity. I was somewhere in the middle until I read his edited diary “something sensational to read in the train”*. Now, I’m just a little more inclined to give more weight to his many positive attributes.

Gyles has always been a high achieving and driven individual. Top exam results, Scholarship to Oxford, President of the Oxford Union, accomplished after dinner speaker, TV star and published author by 20, he ends the diaries by announcing that he is going to do one thing of quality before he dies. Passionate about Shakespeare, ballet and hi-brow culture, he has however spent a lot of his life in fluffy jumpers on game shows. Gyles believes that his passion for doing lots of different things means that he is unlikely to excel at any one thing. Businessman, prolific writer**, theatre impresario, politician, TV interviewer, biographer to Prince Philip, tireless after dinner speaker, charity worker etc etc. This man works hard indeed; it’s in his genetic make-up and he believes that he’s only happy if he continues to do work every hour on a variety of enterprises. What I believe Gyles has missed – though its obvious from reading his diary – is that his public image is due to the choices that he himself has made and that he has made these choices because he has chosen to value money highly.

Gyles appears to be a very honest individual, both ethically and in his judgement and observations on himself and others. He has a great strength in disambiguating his version of what happened from his wider analysis on why and how it happened. One of his strongest traits is his non-judgemental attitude to others. He will gossip about others, but does so typically by looking for and finding the positive aspect of the other person’s character. One gets the feeling that Gyles has probably edited the diary to spare the feelings of others. He doesn’t do this however to spare his own feelings and some of the diary is a little uncomfortable to read, especially the early years. I would have been inclined to edit out some aspects of the diary that didn’t show me in a positive light. He hasn’t, and that’s to his great credit.

This desire to see the good in others also restricts his effectiveness in some areas. He is a hopeless politician. He aspires to be Home Secretary (so that he can implement prison reform), but the diary is littered with his spectacularly poor judgements about others (Archer, Neil Hamilton, Hurd).

Gyles knows everybody with any fame in the UK (and many outside the UK too). He has outstanding stories too; ones that will make you laugh uproariously on a train. The stories are enough to warrant you buying the book.

Gyles both values good entertainment in others and seeks to provide it to others. He has done this in these diaries and I recommend them highly. They will make more sense to those from the UK, but it can be enjoyed by anyone. I read it on kindle; and they are available from Amazon.

*referencing the famous Oscar Wilde quote
**really very prolific. Hundreds and hundreds of (largely inconsequential) books

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