Back from the BrinkTo read this depiction of the British government’s handling of the 2008 unprecedented global financial catastrophe, one needs to have nerves. But for the full experience, it might be interesting to compare this account with Gordon Brown’s book Beyond the Crash. Not so much to check the facts – you would be surprised anyway: who really stopped Barclays from acquiring Lehman Brothers? - the concern is more about individual perceptions; these are always key during any such crisis management. "I don’t believe in panicking before it’s absolutely necessary but I came close to considering it on the morning of 7 October 2008” writes Darling. Emotional intelligence seems to play a strong part in the decision-making process in a pre-catastrophic phase. Darling is neither fair, nor unfair to Brown, he is just speaking with plain words. One can feel the tension behind the writing, tension as the crisis is building, tension between the people at the helm. “It was the middle of August… Gordon and his court had decamped to Southwold, in Suffolk, where he was still very much not on holiday. Shriti Vadera, his economic adviser, was there, and Ed Balls and his press secretary, Damian McBride, visited. It was almost like the summer camp of the king in days of old. As far as I could see, my duties were confined to meeting those of his entourage not invited to Southwold…” The British survived quite a crisis indeed.

So it might be worth picking up Gordon’s book in the one hand and Darling’s in the other – make your own choice about which hand, right or left. Or maybe take a look at Hank Paulson’s book On the Brink, viewed from inside the race to stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System. A third eye to give you an outside-inside point of view.

- E.A.

Back from the Brink, 1,000 Days at Number 11, Alistair Darling, Atlantic Books, £12.99