This moving and detailed account of Andrew Motion's childhood has all the quality of a novel; in short,it's a page-turner, but one that the reader is reluctant to speed through. Moreover, almost every page has that special quality of simple language and insightful detail that one expects from the best poetry.
Some Amazon reviewers have referred to the 'class issue' and one of them harks back to Sassoon's Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man, which is perfectly apposite. But the fact that Motion in adolescence resigns from the hunting set puts him in the modern age of enlightened thinkers. As a child one is a victim, subject to many influences and pressures that later need to be questioned. Motion does all of this, but never loses touch with his roots, as the title indicates. In fact, the nuclear family - Andrew, brother Kit and the parents are exquisitely drawn portraits of loving, caring people, and this book is a tribute to them as much as a revelation of the ex-Poet Laureate's childhood.
I would heartily recommend this book, both to young people, who will identify with the Andrew Motion's struggles with the problems of adolescence, and oldies, like me, who remember the war, evacuation, rationing, and times when schools were largely punitive institutions, intent on turning boys into real men, by floggings and the arbitrary imposition of petty rules. In this book it is not only the child but the mother whose stiff upper lip trembles before each new term. Indeed, the intimate relationship between Andrew, the elder son, and his mother is the golden thread that unifies the book. The school scenes recalled to me Joyce's portrait of Clongowes, while, in passionate intensity, the domestic scenes rivalled those of Sons and Lovers.