John Maynard Keynes wanted to change the world through economics. Arguably, he succeeded, because he had to. The world was in a giant slump after the Great War, and Britain had an unprecedented unemployment crisis. He was the intellectual as well as the governmental voice behind, namely, higher government expenditure and lowering of tax rates to help economic demand during the instability between the wars. Yet putting all that aside, Keynes also lived a personal life of great fascination. It is the brilliance of Emma Barnes’ book about him that she manages to capture both the man and the mind in a highly informative and charming novel; one trusts in an important history lesson, whilst one also joins in with the joys and quarrels of ‘high society’.
Lydia Lopokova, a pretty, quirky Russian ballet dancer, is another key element to the tale and our understanding of Keynes’ life. An unlikely partner, they fall head-over-heels into a lasting romance, which matures delightfully as the novel progresses. She is integral to the antagonisms that developed in Keynes’ relationship with Virginia and Vanessa, of whom Barnes is not shy of painting in shadows of cruelty as well as alliance. Indeed, the book is a jolly read also for anybody who simply cares to indulge in learning more about relations in the infamous Bloomsbury group.
G.E. Moore’s philosophy of art and friendship, “the pleasures of human intercourse and the enjoyment of beautiful objects,” goes a long way in getting at the heart of Keynes’ motivation for his work; make the money to appreciate the beauties in life, and make it for all. It’s an ideal, and it certainly carries him through the post-war blues. Fighting off Foxy and Niemeyer, two banking ‘relations’ set on the success of the cities financial district before all else, is an uphill struggle. Unemployed workers of the north are living on scraps and will have to make do. Keynes was a labour voter and sympathised with the working class. He holds their corner in private clubs filled with Conservatives, and even comes up against Churchill himself in the Treasury meetings, an effort to prevent Churchill’s deadly restoration of the bank’s Gold Standard in April 1925.
There’s the skeptical Maynard too. Who thinks that ‘in the long run we are all dead’, and who is tainted with nostalgia for his youthful Cambridge days. But, overall, the novel really sings a note of optimism for Maynard, his beliefs, his economic policies, and his sincere friendships. After all, he is the only person who seems to actually care about Britain having a future of equality… This is a timely novel that brings back to life a man mistakenly consigned to the sidelines.
Published by the author on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Keynes-Revolution-J-Barnes/dp/0993515835