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Corridors of Power by C. P. Snow
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Corridors of Power

by C. P. Snow

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I was disappointed with this. As a civil servant myself, I expected to be interested in this novel about Parliamentary politics and the relationship between Ministers and civil servants. It started quite strongly, but the writing was rather overblown and too often just plain dull. At a distance of 50 years, it was almost impossible to identify with any of the principle characters, almost none of which came across at all sympathetically. Every politician and civil servant featured or even mentioned here is male, a more accurate reflection then than now of reality, but not quite as uniformly so even then. The central issue here of nuclear disarmament and the threat of a nuclear war is a stark reminder of the Cold War era in which the novel is set (1955-57) and was written (1964) and there are some interesting debates buried here among the turgid prose. But it wasn't enough to stop me feeling a great sense of relief when I finished it. 2.5/5
  john257hopper | Oct 26, 2012 |
C.P. Snow is one of those very popular writers of the 50s and 60s who seems to have fallen off the radar completely in more recent times. Never having read anything by him, I thought I'd try at least one to get a feel for his style. Obviously, it's a bit unfair to judge him by the 9th book from an 11-book roman-fleuve, but this was the one that happened to come to hand.

Clearly, this tale of the rise and fall of an ambitious politician at the time of Suez is a very perceptive, realistic analysis of the way that the political process — or indeed the decision-making process in any large bureaucracy — works. Snow gives us an insider's view of the murky world of committee rooms, private offices, memoranda, minutes, and (of course) the corridors in which the really important decisions are taken. There's a particular period interest in the way this book describes (with ten years' hindsight) a moment at which the modern style of media-dominated politics was finally displacing the old-fashioned British politics of aristocratic hostesses and country house-parties. Less interesting for the modern reader is the debate about Britain's "independent nuclear deterrent" which is at the heart of the plot: anyone who was around in the 60s, 70s or 80s has heard far more interesting and sophisticated arguments on both sides than are presented here. Given that he was writing with hindsight, Snow could probably have done a better job of putting this question into the context of Britain's humiliation over Suez.

The main problem with this book, though, is that Snow as he presents himself here is a dreadfully dull, humourless writer. There isn't a hint of irony or self-deprecation, as there would be in Anthony Powell: everything is presented to us in deadly earnest and is meant to be taken seriously. We are obviously supposed to be reading the book for instruction, not entertainment. ( )
1 vote thorold | May 21, 2010 |
1896 Corridors of Power, by C. P. Snow (read 27 Dec 1984) This ninth novel in the series was, I regret to say, often a bore. It tells of Roger Quaife, who was a Minister in the Government (1955-58--all fictional, of course) who takes a position that Britain must not seek nuclear power. He is carrying on an affair with another man's wife, and lose in effect a vote in Parliament, and resigns. I really deplore the moral tone of Snow, and I regret the immoral lives of his protagonists. This book was a bore most of the time, and I will be glad when I am though with the series. ( )
  Schmerguls | Sep 6, 2008 |
Still one of the best insights into officials, scientists and politicians.
  muir | Dec 4, 2007 |
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