Lynsey Hanley (3 stars)

Estates: An Intimate History (Granta)


Through a blend of anthropological musing and booksmart social history, Lynsey Hanley offers a comprehensive account of the hows, whys and wherefores of council housing in Britain with her examination of ‘the one great failure of the welfare state’. Written with a passion born of first-hand experience, the author takes a commendably balanced view of the phenomenon, endlessly offsetting the desperate need for affordable housing for the masses against the numerous, often inevitable pitfalls that such efforts would take.

Following the story from inner-city slums through out of town estates to the rise of tower blocks and the Right to Buy, a bleak picture of government and local authority mismanagement is delivered with surprising warmth and reason. A tale of hope and horror, Hanley’s study of this blight of the lower classes and its impact and reflection on our society as a whole holds no punches while remaining humble, honest and, yes, intimate.

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