In terms of timing, the publication date of Damian Barr’s memoir – Maggie and Me – could not have been more apt. Margaret Thatcher’s died just seventeen days before Maggie and Me was released, and thus the book was welcomed into something of a media circus surrounding the iron lady’s death.
The memoir begins in 1984 when Damian sees an IRA bomb blow apart the Grand Hotel in Brighton on TV – miraculously, Margaret Thatcher survives and each of the seventeen chapters begins with a quote from the prime minister – a woman who, in both life and death, very much divided the opinion of society. Growing up in small-town Scotland to a Catholic mother and a Protestant father who separate when Damian is just a young boy, he recalls a childhood littered with violence, alcoholism and poverty and the resounding desire to make something of himself.
A fan of the series Mr and Mrs Hart which is centred around two glamourous American journalists, Damian decides he too wants to be a journalist – and sees it as a way out of Scotland’s desolate streets. And thus, against the back drop of a very broken home, and despite being relentlessly bullied for being a ‘poof’ and a ‘princess’ he excels at school, and under the instructions of Maggie Thatcher comes out the other side all the stronger for it.
While there’s no denying that the childhood depicted in Maggie & Me was one of strife, at no point in this memoir did Damian portray himself as a victim; indeed the wit and the warmth that the writer clearly possesses in abundance shone through every chapter. A tale of strength, of survival and of seeing an opportunity in every difficulty, Maggie & Me is a heart-warming, poignant read that offers a refreshing view of Britain’s only female prime minister.