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Customer Review

on 15 February 2000
It's a shame this book is not more widely known, it has to be one of the most fascinating and fun autobiographies that i have read. I read this some time ago knowing nothing about Ludovic Kennedy but now feel that i have had an engaging insight into his life and works. There is Kennedy the schoolboy at Eton flying to Le Touquet for a weekend at the gaming tables and vividly describing the atmosphere of a school of this type at the time. Then there is Kennedy at Oxford and the war, the chapter dealing with his wartime Naval experience is quite dense and perhaps of more interest to the military scholar. Thereafter the book takes off as does his career as a journalist. His various trips around the world are quite simply spelllbinding, what a wonderful life he appeared to lead, seeing things and meeting people of such diversity that one wonders why we don't leave all this behind and go and look ourselves. He is incredibly generous of spirit and pokes harmless fun at those who comes across. The book contains some really wonderful lines; visitng a retired German Admiral he writes, as the Admiral roars into the tape recorder in the mistaken belief that this will make the interview easier, "the recording equipment was too new a trick for this old sea dog to learn" and they end up discussing old age. In the manner of many old people the Admiral is fixated with his own mortality and explains the ageing processs to Ludo, jabbing him in the chest "I will live until I am 70, you could live until you are 140!". It is typical of the man that these two who had fought each other across the waves only a few years before are now debating such universal topics as age. Of course, Kennedy's views on euthanasia are given a full and thought provoking airing later on in the book. There are other great scenes of human life, the Sheikh in the desert who organises races for everyone under his command, young and old to impress Kennedy, the Indian who leaps into his taxi in the middle of nowhere and quizzes Kennedy on a wide variety of matters including the works of Kinglsey Amis.
Kennedy is at his best when being self effacing, laughing at himself for falling asleep when interviewig someone on live Television (he had had a very good lunch and the man was very boring, though) and interviewing President Kennedy when he came to London while reminding himself not to repeat an old saying to the effect that the Kennedys who had failed to make it in either Scotland or Ireland ended up in the States. His encounters with the great and the good leave one with great feeling of tenderness for them, he describes meeting the Archbishop at his club for dinner after which the Archbishop drinks both of their cognacs and nods off. This after Kennedy has brilliantly described his curious way of repeating every question put to him.
There is also Knnedy the politician nearly triumphing and of course later on in the book his crusades for the release of innocent people from prison. Here the tone of the book changes and one is filled with a a sense of outrage, quite rightly so, at the treatment of these people. One is left with the feeling that if Kennedy is defending them, then they are certainly worth defending.
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