Eggs or Anarchy: Book Review

by Sam Bilton on September 14, 2016 No comments

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What is the essence of the book?

It’s rare for people to have sympathy for politicians. It’s far easier to lay the blame at their feet for whatever ills are plaguing our society and to complain that they are simply not doing enough to solve our problems. Anyone entering the political arena knows that this will be their lot. It is apparently a thankless job.

When you read William Sitwell’s account of Lord Woolton, Minister of Food at the start of World War 2, you begin to realise just how thankless a job being a politician can be. Far from being a career politician, Fred Marquis (later Lord Woolton) was a successful businessman. In early 1940 he was given onerous task of feeding the nation. Forty-one million men, women and children were depending on him to ensure there was sufficient food available during this time of crisis. Very few people knew then (or even realise now) the struggles he faced to achieve this aim whether they be internal conflicts within the government; hounding by the press; or the compromises that had to be negotiated in order to source vital supplies for our island. Sometimes the public loved him. But occasionally he was universally loathed for his policies, such as the rationing of eggs. No matter what the public thought of him, Woolton stuck to his guns and by the end of the war Britain was, by all accounts, far healthier than it had been prior to the start.

About the author

If you are a Waitrose customer you may recognise William Sitwell’s name as the editor of Waitrose Food. He’s also appeared on TV shows like Masterchef (as a critic/judge rather than a contestant).

Who will like it?

This book is likely to appeal to social history fans especially those with an interest in how the home front fared during World War 2.

Who won’t like it?

If you like sumptuous food or are not really into history (especially modern history) then this book probably won’t appeal to you.

What do I like about the book?

It was really interesting to read an account of this period of from the perspective of the man responsible for rationing (much of the information contained in the book was sourced from Woolton’s own diaries). Sitwell does an excellent job painting a sympathetic picture of a man who never asked for the fame he eventually found. Woolton was a principled man but he was not averse to taking risks and bending the rules if it helped him achieve his aims. He comes across as ballsy yet honest and someone I would love to meet if I could travel back in time. The book appears to have been thoroughly researched and I definitely felt better informed about this aspect of the war after reading it.

What do I dislike about the book?

It did take a while to get into the book, although I can’t put my finger on why this would be as I like Sitwell’s style of writing. That said I did finish the book (which is more than I can say about some of the books I’m sent to review) so it did engage me in the end.

Where can you buy it?

Eggs or Anarchy by William Sitwell (Simon & Schuster, 2016) is available from Amazon.

Sam BiltonEggs or Anarchy: Book Review

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