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This Boy Paperback – 27 Feb 2014
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"the best memoir by a politician you will ever read" (Philip Collins The Times)
"a poignant memoir…Johnson writes wonderfully" (Mary Kenny Telegraph)
"deeply moving and unforgettable" (Lynn Barber Sunday Times)
"a handsome and eloquent tribute" (Peter Wilby Guardian)
"beautifully, beautifully written... his style is utterly simple, with a wit so understated that every reader will believe that he or she alone got it" (John Rentoul Independent on Sunday)
"Neither mawkish nor sentimental, it is an evocative, filmic account on an early childhood... would make a fabulous drama that, for all its squalor, lifts the spirits" (Judith Woods Daily Telegraph)
"a testament to the power of family love and a tribute to two strong women" (Ian Birrell Daily Mail)
"Wonderful and moving... unreadable with a dry eye" (The Times)
"the biography of a politician like no other - beautifully observed, humorous, moving, uplifting; told with a dry self-deprecating wit and not a trace of self-pity" (Chris Mullin Observer)
"No ordinary politician's memoir ... wonderful." (John Grimond The Spectator)
Winner of the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize 2014
Winner of the Orwell Prize 2014
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Top Customer Reviews
And when did you last read a political autobiography that was not an ego-trip by the author?
Rather Alan Johnson's book is mainly about two remarkable women - his mother, Lily and his sister Linda - struggling for their own survival, and that of the young Alan, in dreadful slum conditions, with a husband and father, Steve - who was a total waste of space in every respect - during the period between the end of World War Two and the beginning of the Swinging Sixties. (And the book is a powerful reminder to those of us who remember those times of how bloody horrible in some many ways the "good old days" of the 50s really were; violent racism, unbridled sexism and homophobia, casual violence, grinding poverty, Arctic winters....)
Lily's life is an eternal struggle, made even more unbearable when Steve abandons her and the two children. Wastrel he may have been but his leaving is still like a bereavement. Yet she copes, robbing Peter to pay Paul, always doing her very best for Linda and Alan. Then Lily dies, at only 42 and Linda takes over, defying officialdom though only in her teens so that she and her young brother can stay together.
The story sounds tragic. While it's certainy sad, it escapes tragedy due to Alan Johnson's refusal to write it as a "dreadful childhood" memoir.Read more ›
But that is not all this work conveys- a testament to the devotion of his mother Lily who raised two children and formed their characters admirably despite grinding poverty,failing health and a feckless,violent husband,and also to the strength and feisty determination of his sister Linda to keep the family together.
Written in an unsentimental and highly readable style,this memoir is the best autobiography I have read in very long time. Enjoy!
Alan Johnson comes across as witty, charming, authentic and self-deprecating, but the real heroes of the story are his sister and mother who never gave up hope fighting against what must have seemed like impossible odds.
Abandoned by his father at an early age Johnson survived a very deprived childhood thanks to the efforts of his permanently ill mother and a particularly tough and determined sister Linda.
In the current political climate where an Eton education appears almost obligatory it was astonishing that someone from a background like this should reach high office.
Alan Johnson always struck me as a thoroughly decent, honest man who carried out his political career with great integrity. I think it is a great shame that he never challenged for the Labour leadership as I feel that he would have been, almost uniquely, a leader I would have trusted.
As a writer I think that he conveys the hardships of the working class in the slums of post-war London accurately and without the sentimentality so often employed in memoirs.
I look forward to the next instalment and thoroughly recommend this.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Anyone who thinks they ha be had a tough childhood should read this.Published 2 days ago by Mrs Rhoda M Johnson
This book has rightly been garlanded with awards. It captures the bleak, post war world of slum housing and abject poverty without ever being mawkish or self pitying. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
This book made me laugh and cry. What a tough life but what a wonderful bond between a sister and brother.Published 10 days ago by THERESE K.
This autobiography is sad insomuch as it highlights the unnecessary suffering and waste of potential ability due to abject poverty, and heartwarming as it brings to life the... Read morePublished 15 days ago by JOAN STANLEY
Wonderful book, a joy to read. Especially if you have some insight to the neighbourhood in which he lived. Read morePublished 18 days ago by NSJM
Excellent recollection of life growing up in West London. Illuminating as to life for some in Britain in the 50s and 60s. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Carisbrooke
I lived in another part of West london and did not realise the extent of poverty in North Kensington and Notting Hill at the time,although I used to visit my great aunt in a very... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mrs J. Rayer
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