This Boy: A Memoir of Childhood

Alan Johnson

This Boy: A Memoir of Childhood

Alan Johnson's childhood was not so much difficult as unusual, particularly for a man who was destined to become Home Secretary. Not in respect of the poverty, which was shared with many of those living in the slums of post-war Britain, but in its transition from two-parent family to single mother and then to no parents at all... This is essentially the story of two incredible women: Alan's mother, Lily, who battled against poor health, poverty, domestic violence and loneliness to try to ensure a better life for her children; and his sister, Linda, who had to assume an enormous amount of responsibility at a very young age and who fought to keep the family together and out of care when she herself was still only a child. Played out against the background of a vanishing community living in condemned housing, the story moves from post-war austerity in pre-gentrified Notting Hill, through the race riots, school on the Kings Road, Chelsea in the Swinging 60s, to the rock-and-roll years, making a record in Denmark Street and becoming a husband and father whilst still in his teens. This Boy is one man's story, but it is also a story of England and the West London slums which are so hard to imagine in the capital today. 4.5 out of 5 based on 4 reviews
This Boy: A Memoir of Childhood

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Society, Politics & Philosophy
Format
Pages
RRP
Date of Publication May 2013
ISBN 978-0593069646
Publisher Bantam Press
 

Alan Johnson's childhood was not so much difficult as unusual, particularly for a man who was destined to become Home Secretary. Not in respect of the poverty, which was shared with many of those living in the slums of post-war Britain, but in its transition from two-parent family to single mother and then to no parents at all... This is essentially the story of two incredible women: Alan's mother, Lily, who battled against poor health, poverty, domestic violence and loneliness to try to ensure a better life for her children; and his sister, Linda, who had to assume an enormous amount of responsibility at a very young age and who fought to keep the family together and out of care when she herself was still only a child. Played out against the background of a vanishing community living in condemned housing, the story moves from post-war austerity in pre-gentrified Notting Hill, through the race riots, school on the Kings Road, Chelsea in the Swinging 60s, to the rock-and-roll years, making a record in Denmark Street and becoming a husband and father whilst still in his teens. This Boy is one man's story, but it is also a story of England and the West London slums which are so hard to imagine in the capital today.

Reviews

The Independent

John Rentoul

This is the saddest book I have read. First, because it is a sad story. Not the poverty of Alan Johnson’s early life. That is merely surprising … No, the sadness is in the love that Johnson feels for his mother, who died when he was 13, and for his sister ... The second reason this is such a sad book is that it confirms my belief that Alan Johnson would have been one of the best prime ministers this country has ever had.

04/05/2013

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The Times

Andrew Adonis

Wonderful and moving … unreadable with a dry eye.

29/04/2013

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The Sunday Times

Lynn Barber

… we learn nothing of his later career in politics (he was general secretary of the Union of Communication Workers before he entered parliament), but we know enough to wish that all politicians could be like Alan Johnson. Why couldn’t he have been prime minister? Better still, why couldn’t his sister Linda have been? She is the heroine of this deeply moving and unforgettable memoir.

05/05/2013

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The Guardian

Peter Wilby

Many readers will want to know why, given this background, Johnson, though initially a Marxist and later a militant union general secretary, eventually moved to Labour's Blairite right. The book has a lot about football, his youthful ambitions to be a pop musician (which came much closer to realisation than those of his patron Tony Blair) and his careful cultivation of Mod style. But Johnson makes no attempt to relate childhood experiences to his later political development, and rightly so. This is about two extraordinary women who waged a battle for survival, with neither time nor energy left for politics. Johnson has given them a handsome and eloquent tribute.

04/05/2013

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