Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
on 22 January 2012
Let me start by declaring my interest - I am a South East London boy from the very social background portrayed in this book. Therefore, as well as perhaps more natural sympathy towards both the subject and the author I also found the location and wider cultural references that form the backbone of this book more intuitive and emotionally-relevant than readers from further afield may do.
Is 'The Likes of Us' a perfect book, or even the complete history of the White Working Class? Most certainly not. It is a very good book that focuses on that very unique WWC that inhabited and to a good extent still inhabits SE London from the edges of what people call 'Central' to the Kentish borders. But what this book tells us from a wider standpoint is the story of a significant building block of modern Britain that too many - in the media, in politics, in society at large - have been a bit too keen to sweep under the carpet and out of sight in the hope it would go away.
By mixing the personal (the author's family history - here told with a sensitive mix of the 'official' and the oral narrative, not without a hint of understandable sentimentalism at times) with a wider polemic and a comprehensive body of research and quotations, Michael Collins delivers a very readable, emotional even, page-turner that is nonetheless rich on detail and the kind of evidence that isn't far off that of an academic study on the subject.
I can't help but feel that by adding the tagline 'A Biography of the WWC' the author or the publishers made a tactical error. This isn't a nationwide history of the WWC. It is a very geography-specific one. But the wider theme of the polemic is in fact a UK-wide one. To a degree, the same argument can be made of the WWC in the post-industrial North.
I will not comment here on the content of the book or the arguments pro and against the author's stance; this isn't the place for this. All I would say, touching on this matter, is that there is a quote towards the end of the book from a political think-tank summing up the 'mistakes' made by successive individuals and bodies in a position of influence on society when dealing with the WWC and the changing social and cultural landscape of the UK that, in my humble opinion, is the perfect counter-argument to those who have accused this book of being an apology for extremists.
All in all, a superb read.