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4.1 out of 5 stars35
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 16 November 2013
This short memoir - all the more poignant because it can be devoured almost at one sitting - is a profoundly moving vignette on the effect of war on one family, and, especially, on one boy, who, in some ways, always remained a boy because he never knew his father, despite attaining high office. The banishing of any true grief for many years and the various foiled attempts at a pilgrimage to the crash site of his father's wartime plane are beautifully painted with deep honesty and the final sentence broke my heart.
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on 19 November 2013
I found this to be a brave and beautiful memoir. A searingly honest tale of one family's emotional history and the politics which charts Meyer's evolution into adulthood. A fantastic read that is beautifully written by this accomplished author. I recommend this book as it will be informative and moving for all generations.
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on 4 May 2014
I am glad Christopher was able to trace what happened to his father and write about the loss experienced by the family. It is written in a very factual way probably because the only way to survive a loss even if it is felt through a family member is by concentrating on living whilst searching for answers. My eldest brother's father was lost presumed dead over the Adriatic and he was brought up by grandparents. My mother never settled, a trait which seemed common when I looked into the families of the rest of the crew. We owe so much to these brave people and need to understand the effects on their families in order to aid the families of our existing servicemen.
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on 14 March 2014
I really enjoyed this book, Sometimes lovingly described, sometimes bluntly told, a topsy-turvy childhood in a different time.

Meyer's search for information about his Father, who was killed before his birth, informs the effect of his loss on his and that of his Mother's whole lives.

Mixtures of hilarity and the kindness of the islanders who gave his father and his colleague respectful funerals despite the presence of the Germans, and their tales of those days, passed down through generations.

A really nice book to read.
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on 19 November 2013
Christopher Meyer's moving account of his early life as an only child is totally compelling. He never met his father, an RAF pilot who was shot down in the War over Greece in 1943 before Christopher was born. Early childhood, the emotional horror of being packed off to boarding school, and the long journey to find out in later life what happened to his father, are all described elegantly and touchingly . Only Child is an absolute page turner and so succinct that it can be read at one go. I thoroughly recommend this unusual account of childhood
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on 20 February 2014
The book is about the author trying to find out more about his father who died just before the author was born. The author does find out more about the death of his father on a Greek island during the Second World War. However, he is unable to find out more about his personality except from a few of his father's letters to his mother. The author is left with the feeling that he might have been a different person if his father had survived but is not sure about this. The reader is left as frustrated as the author.
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on 28 November 2013
As a man who lost his father very early in life (I was 4 when my father died) I can relate to the author. Like him I too went to boarding school and also hated it. I have yet to really find out who was the man that my father was and this short book has led me to find out what I can. It was a well written book but I would have liked it to have been a part of a fuller autobiography.
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on 17 March 2014
I have enjoyed reading this book. My parents lived though the Second World War so although I was born in the late fifties I have heard some stories of the time and also lost relatives. The author also explores family dynamics and gives the reader an idea of how the War affected peoples personal lives. I was pleased the author got to his father's grave.
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on 8 July 2014
I enjoyed this book because it was a short story and to the point. It was sad to think the author grew up not ever knowing his father. The war took many lives and in this case, the author's father was killed many miles away from his home. It sounded an awful death but, the Greek people kept his spirit alive enabling his son to visit many years later.
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This is a personal memoir with a difference, indeed with several differences. As British ambassador in Washington on 9/11 and during the run-up to the Iraq project, Sir Christopher Meyer had a higher profile than ambassadors usually have, and his lively and controversial reminiscences in DC Confidential heightened the impact. Back at home since his `retirement' his public image has gone on strengthening through his television documentaries and his frequent appearances on the media as panellist and pundit. We have a good idea what to expect from Sir Christopher Meyer: unlike most Foreign Office Sirs, Christopher has pizzazz, and that guarantees us good reading, even when the tale is as dignified and personal as this is.

On one view, a career like this suggests a child of the gods. Before being ambassador to the USA Christopher was press secretary to the prime minister and then ambassador in Germany. Since retiring from the diplomatic service he has been chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, a position nearly as pressurised as that of Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the way things are going currently. However on the ordinary human plane the child of the gods, gliding with seeming effortlessness from one top job to another, was the only child of an RAF pilot shot down by the Luftwaffe, together with his navigator, over the Greek island of Ikaria in 1944, ten days before Christopher was born. What we have here is the story of how Christopher Meyer finally met Reggie Meyer. It is a Greek story, so the ancient Greeks are usually supposed to have a word for everything. In that case the word I would go for is `tykhe' - `Chance', pure blind chance.

The breakthrough came in 2009, with an unattributed piece on Wikipedia. Just one year before, Christopher had had a brush with death himself, and for a reason that to be called prosaic would demean prose - he had stumbled on the stairs on his way to the loo. What this episode did for me was to remind me of the precariousness of the hold that any of us have on life. I had had a minor injury of my own around then, from jumping off a moving Bonde car in Rio de Janeiro so as to call in at a bar it was passing. This piece of senior idiocy earned me several weeks of limping around with a pulled thigh muscle, a proportionate penance you might think; and I mentally put Christopher's accident in the same category. Not so, as I now learn. The trouble is, in addition to everything else he has going for him Christopher looks just great, seemingly the picture of health and nowhere near the age he really is. In real life he wears a heart monitor and has to take warfarin, as he tells us. It is all compatible with a long and active life, but it means that the flower of existence has to be tended carefully day in and day out. My own robust-seeming health could be more precarious than I really know too.

He gives us the story of life as an only child with a mother who was another only child conflicted with her mother, yet another such. Adolescents are not born to be happy, so if it had not been one thing it would have been another. In this case the scenario was of a youngster having to act towards his mother's later husbands as if he loved them as a father. Whether his absence at boarding school, which he also loathed, alleviated that or just complemented it I'm not clear. With one year to go now before reaching the biblical threescore and ten a distinguished public servant has finally, and luckily, been given the opportunity to raise a monument to a hero whose lifetime made one score and three years but whose public service was infinitely greater.
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