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 postwar 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.
©2013 Alan Johnson (P)2013 Random House Audiobooks
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"Nostalgia, not what it used to be..."
This is one of the best, if not the best, listens I've bought from Audible.
Johnson manages to mix his excellent memory with fine research to make a compelling read. Lots of anecdotes to savour, but my favourite is the one about being at an Everton match and trying to keep up with his uncle smoking Woodbines, aged 16. He collapsed at half-time but was given an upgrade to the posh seats.
I think this is his only title. I've listened to him prattle in the House of Commons though...
Laugh more than cry. Although the story of poverty makes me sad and reminds us that the past wasn't a golden era for millions of working class people who lived hand to mouth in appalling slums. It reminds me that the progressive society we live in didn't happen by accident: everyday rascism, divisive education policies, working class hovels, corporal punishment, unprotected workers, were all standard fare in the 1950s and 1960s. The progressive politicians and campaigners fought hard to erode these elements from society. Makes me angry when I hear working class people who nowadays call for a return to these "halcyon" days.
A fantastic memoir Alan. I have to admit that I also enjoyed the book because of the parallels with my own life. Grew up near North Kensington (in the shadow of Trellick Tower), poor background, council houses, QPR, used to be in a band, postman (who delivered to Southam Street!) Happy to say I never got the smoking thing, so am spared the Woodbine wobbles.
"Not your usual, run of the mill political memoir"
I don't generally read political memoir's as they are often dry, drab and dreary. Alan Johnson's memoir however was warm, moving, sad, joyful and brave. A celebration of the women in his life, mother Lilian and sister Linda who worked so hard in post war London to keep bread on the table due to a progressively absent father. Lots of Alan's early life resonated with me as I was born within a few years of him and although I grew up in Derby and not London, the landscape and the grinding poverty were just the same. I knocked a point off the performance because of his appalling rendition of Lilian's Scouse accent but other than this I loved every minute, cried with frustration and grief at the injustice of his family's lot and laughed out loud when they triumphed. Throughout none of this did AJ sound pathetic or self pitying and it was clear to see why his early life brought him to a place in life where he wished to fight for the plight of others; firstly within his trade union and then in Parliament. Can't help but think he would have made a great Prime Minister, one who would have truly empathised with so many of Britain's poorer residents. But that, I suspect, is another story.
"A warm, candid, moving memoir"
If you thought all politicians were Eton educated idiots with no idea of what goes on in the real world listen to Alan Johnson's memoir. I could not stop listening to this and was moved to tears on several occasions. However it is not a depressing 'misery memoir' . It is narrated candidly and warmly by the author and at no stage is there any self pity. Instead it is a memoir filled with love for the two amazing women in his life- his mother Lily and sister Linda. I really hope that Alan Johnson does a follow up to this - OK we know what happened to Alan after 1997 when he became a Labour MP but I am interested in his journey from Post Office worker, to Marxist to MP. I would also love to know what happens to his sister Linda. Essential listening.
"wasn't expecting to enjoy it so much"
heart wrenching, amazing story. only listened because of the reviews. So glad I did. Just about to buy the next book; need to know what happened next. Engrossing and well narrated. One of my favourite audible selections.
Yes, because it was informative, moving and well read.
Like the 'oven on the landing' this is a stand alone book.
Many, but especially the end when Alan sees his mother's reflection and he reveals that he has learnt what his mother's sad life taught him - Family. not money, is the most important thing in life.
the angel of North Kensington.
This book brings back personal memories of bubble n squeek, bread and dripping, supporting the local football team. Having the author read his own autobiography is more involving and authorative.
"Moving And Heartwarming"
Loved it! I can see why Alan Johnson is both respected and liked across the political spectrum. Despite the adversity in his childhood, the values and manners instilled by his mother, shine through in both his sister Linda and him.
Inspirational and moving - a story of three heroic people facing considerable difficulties in life.
This is a wonderful book, beautifully read. I found it interesting, gripping, and above all, humbling. Read it.
"What a boy!"
Alan Johnson's early years told by himself, impartially despite the emotional content. Brutally honest and dignified in highlighting what life is really like when your poor. He should be proud of how his mother, sister and he achieved a close family life together despite crushing bad health and luck. The birth of a socialist with clear moral boundaries.
"Brilliant and moving"
Very interesting and moving story of Alan Johnson's younger years. I can't wait to listen to his second memoir. Although I wouldn't always agree with his politics, this book has given me a real understanding of where his politics come from and a great respect for him as a person.
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