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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 ›
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.
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!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A salutary read which I could think was fiction until I recall the situation of children in the 1940s and 50s where I grew up. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Val B
What a brilliant book, what a great story, what a wonderful man Alan Johnson is and his sister is pretty marvellous too. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Love Books
Fantastic evocation of a poverty-stricken 1950s childhood but done without the sentimentality usually associated with such things ("hard life" books). Read morePublished 6 days ago by Toby
The story is totally lacking in self pity. It is an incredibly hard upbringing but is relayed in a way that shows hope. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Annette Copeland
Proof that This Politician is NOT an Eton and Oxbridge graduate with no experience of real life. A good mixture of interior thoughts / feelings and exterior period / event detail. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Tess
Having been brought up at a similar time, partly in London, I could identify with many of the descriptions Alan gives, along with my Mum bringing my step-brother and I up in very... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Brian Evans
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