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Just Boris: The Irresistible Rise of a Political Celebrity Hardcover – 26 Sep 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 459 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd; 1st edition (26 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845136659
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845136659
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 4.1 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 208,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Through fast prose and a vast array of interviews, Purnell ... portrays better than any predecessor the arrogance, opportunism, and irresistible buffoonery of our most celebrated politician.'

(Independent on Sunday)

'If you want the full Johnson experience, do read Sonia Purnell's new biography, Just Boris ... Johnson's supporters have depicted the book as a hatchet job. But actually it struck me as commendably fair'

(Andrew Sparrow The Guardian)


(Quentin Letts The Daily Mail)

'Future biographers will always be in her debt. Purnell has accumulated a wealth of previously unknown detail'

(Andrew Gimson The Spectator)

'Filled with gems ... will make uncomfortable reading for Boris'

(Camilla Long The Sunday Times)

'Thorough study...sharply narrated and dilgently researched.'

(New Statesman)

'A rollicking narrative'


'This is a thorough biography and Johnson is a compelling subject'

(Financial Times)

‘Whether you like Boris or loathe him, he is a class act and Sonia Purnell’s excellent book is a must read for those who want to understand this mystery wrapped in an enigma.’ – Jerry Hayes


‘One of the many virtues of Purnell’s forensic biography is that she broadly leaves the reader to make up their own mind about the true nature of this political phenomenon. Writing as a trained journalist, what Purnell does admirably is marshall the facts, warts and all, about this man.’


‘Fill your Christmas stockings with this' - Nick Ferrrai


'Colourful biography...Purnell decodes Johnson's complex personality'

(The Guardian)

‘Sonia Purnell’s Just Boris stood out as a critical, illuminating view of London’s great blonde egomaniac’ - Anne McElvoy

(New Statesman)

‘Meticulous and quietly devastating’


‘Meticulously researched and well presented’

(The Oldie)

'Gives good pointers on Johnson’s real beliefs as to who should be the [Conservatives’] leader, and on his future relationship with Cameron' - Stephen Hammond MP

(Total Politics)

‘Thoroughly researched and well-crafted … If you want to know who and what Boris is, read Sonia Purnell's book.’

(Literary Review)


‘Sonia must have had huge fun writing this wonderful book. The only person who won’t be amused is Boris himself’

(Michael Crick)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Brackenbury Buzz on 3 Oct 2011
Format: Hardcover
It's always disturbing to learn about the murkier side of any politician's life but this time it's also hilarious and fabulously shocking. Intellect has no doubt propelled Boris a long way but it's his blind, ruthless ambition that really comes through in the book.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By JB on 28 Oct 2011
Format: Hardcover
The cult of personality is alive and well and living, not just in North Korea, but also in central London. 'Just Boris' illuminates a driven, complex, contradictory personality who is well on the way to conquering a great many more of us with well-practised smoke and mirrors. Sonia Purnell's forensic examination of the man would would be PM reveals, with humour and considered analysis, something of the real man behind the engaging clown Boris Johnson would have us believe he is. If only Johnson believed in himself, he might have made it. Purnell tracks the rise of a man who has had an astonishingly privileged bike ride through the corridors of power. For all of her revelations, Purnell is as intrigued as the rest of us by one of the most engaging yet baffling politicians in decades. An excellent read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By December Hare on 6 May 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a splendidly written biographical account of the rise and rise of Boris Johnson which from start to finish managed to keep me captivated and if anything vindicated my pre-existing opinions on the subject. It would be fair to say that Sonia Purnell comes across as neither disinterested nor enamoured about her subject and there does seem to be a certain amount of antipathy towards Boris apparent at various points in her account, however it is far from an outright and unsympathetic hatchet job and Ms. Purnell is certainly not the first (and wont be the last) person to write a biography about a person whose fanclub she/he does not belong to.
The book seems to have been well researched and is pretty much bang up to date; but what is done so well is the wit with which she writes- something that Boris Johnson himself- in editor mode- could indeed be proud of.
If you want to know more about the background of this fascinating character who despite a seeming propensity for horrendous and well documented foot in mouth gaffes still seems able to bestride the world (or at least The Thames) with his other foot like a colossus - then this is the book to read.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By C. L. James on 3 Oct 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'll confess, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Labour voter and was aghast when Boris Johnson beat Ken Livingstone to become Mayor of London in 2008. Indeed, I bought this book precisely because I wanted to arm myself with evidence to help sway those of my friends considering voting for Boris again in 2012. And there's certainly much for anti-BoJo types to quote from here. In particular stories about his 'part-time' approach to the mayoralty, some alarming allegations from a former Met officer about political interference in London's policing, and revelations about quite how much the 'Boris Bikes' and other so-called 'vanity projects' are likely to cost Londoners.

That all said, I can't say the book is overtly hostile to Boris. If I was forced to guess, I'd say Sonia Purnell probably voted for him. There's a certain quality of admiration in her writing. At the very least, she's genuinely fascinated by Boris and her depiction of him as the most cunning, charismatic and complicated character in British life today is hard to deny.

Which is probably why, despite myself, I found the Boris presented by this book so entertaining. His isn't the dull story of uninterrupted privilege and career politics that Purnell seems to believe David Cameron has enjoyed - although that's not to say Boris isn't privileged. There's much wit, roguish behaviour, and just plain bad behaviour to be enjoyed here. And some of that behaviour is so bad you could be forgiven for wondering, 'How can he ever have become an MP, let alone Mayor after that?' But, as Purnell argues convincingly, his carefully crafted public persona - Boris the Buffoon - acts as a Teflon shield that allows him to get away with it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By SE1 on 22 Dec 2011
Format: Hardcover
Outwardly, Boris Johnson seems like one of Britain's least-subtle politicians - brash, blustering and always aware of his own abilities.
What Sonia Purnell's biography makes clear is that there is significantly more to Boris than would appear from his hyperactive TV appearances.
Purnell paints Boris as a complex figure, whose startling self-confidence is at times offset by deep character flaws: selfishness, a seeming inability to forge intimate relationships, recklessness and occasional moments of startling bad judgement.
Purnell has clearly spoken to people who know the man well and has provided a valuable look into his formative years.
The sections on his early career in journalism - from Brussels with the Telegraph to his time at the helm of The Spectator - are particularly interesting. Purnell has interviewed countless Boris confidantes and detractors who provide a well-rounded look at the Mayor.
The tone of the book suits its subject - stentorian at points, knowledgeable, but light and heaped with lashings of mocking poison.
Laced with anecdotes, the book provides new insights into the country's most famous politician in every chapter.
One memorable scene in the section on Johnson's 2008 Mayoral campaign has his election supremo threatening violence in a well-heeled restaurant.
Things get more serious when the book reaches Boris's first term as London Mayor. Purnell has found people willing to spear Johnson for perceived failings in the way he has run London. At times the picture painted of City Hall under Boris is as ramshackle as the man himself.
Although Johnson's womanising may be tried and tested ground, there are enough new elements to keep those sections interesting - though other chapters contain the real revelations.
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