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chuntzy

This Boy: A Memoir of Childhood

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Born in 1950 and brought up in the  then ungentrified Notting Hill area of west London, so ungentrified that the area was a huge slum, you just wonder as you read how a boy not only suffering this disadvantage (as many did in those times) but also terrible family circumstances, eventually served as Home Secretary 2009-2010.  In theory he started off with both parents but his father was hardly around, and then left for good, leaving his mother to try and make ends meet by charring and taking on other low-paid jobs while suffering from heart trouble.  When he was 14 Alan's mother died. There was just him and his older sister to fend for themselves.  He is generous in his praise for sister Linda who determinedly kept the ship afloat somehow or other.

 

He certainly doesn't write this as a sob story.  From  boyhood he enjoyed reading (his mother had signed him up for their local library), going to see QPR play at Loftus Road, and spending the 60's with pals immersed in the London pop scene.  But until he earned some money he recounts being always hungry.  The free school meals he had were a literal lifeline. 

 

The book ends with his marriage at the age of 18.

 

Recommended.

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I quite fancy reading this.

 

It is sad to think that boys like him have much less chance of ending up as Home Secretary now. New politicians all seem to follow the same Oxbridge / Westminster research assistant career path, and who will get to Oxbridge now from a background like his?

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I quite fancy reading this.

 

It is sad to think that boys like him have much less chance of ending up as Home Secretary now. New politicians all seem to follow the same Oxbridge / Westminster research assistant career path, and who will get to Oxbridge now from a background like his?

 

My thoughts exactly Minxminnie!

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I have just finished this and I have to echo Chuntzy's praise.

 

It also works well as a social history of that period, a time of great social change, where different eras seemed to co-exist, for example the slums and the well built comfortable semis.

 

My favourite episode had to be Christmas at Ron's.

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Johnson, Alan. This Boy

 

Johnson’s prize-wining memoir of his childhood is definitely one to pick up at Smiths or Waterstones. It’s an absorbing account of a deprived boy from London slumland who was to become an MP, although none of the latter is even hinted at in the text. All we know of young Alan, the budding musician and obsessed QPR supporter, is that he was terrified of his father, and later came to hate Steve, who soon deserted the family, for Alan adored both his invalid workaholic mother, Lily, and his spunky older sister, Linda. At school he was, when present, a modest performer enthused only by Mr Smith his RE teacher who railed against the South African policy of apartheid.

 

This is a plain unvarnished tale of Alan’s blighted childhood in west London, of existing on tick and on handouts, like free schoolmeals for ‘single’ mums - although Lily was essentially faithful to her marriage vows (her wedding ring never removed had to be cut from her dead finger after a failed operation.)

Although we are not spared the horrendous details - rats, bullying, theft (Alan is twice robbed of dearly-bought musical equipment) no running water, cooking in the corridor, freezing in a damp flat in the coldest winter on record - Alan made the most of his free time playing football and more successfully playing and performing pop music.

 

But Lily’s unexpected death in Hammersmith Hospital ‘was the final cruelty inflicted on a woman who had borne so much misery so courageously for so long.’ Linda, aged 16, however, was the young heroine who now worked like a slave, doing the paperwork, paying the bills, meticulously trying every avenue to support her and Alan, taking on the administration who sought to part them and put them into care. We are not leaving London, she told the LCC worker sent to re-habilitate them. ‘But you’re too young to live by yourselves,’ insists Mr Pepper, the social worker. ‘Too young?’ snorts Linda, ‘It’s a bit late to be worrying about that now. We’ve been living by ourselves for years.’

 

There are, however, a few infelicities in Johnson’s mixed diction, as when he adopts an odd contemporary idiom - ‘duo,’ ‘Linda didn’t do blushing.’ Even more clumsily he has Johnny, pursuing thieves, ‘charging out from the back of the shop like a bull on the streets of Pamplona.’ Luckily these lapses are rare, buried in a narrative as meticulous in its London geography as in its posting of local horrors and political scandals. It is indeed, as Peter Wilby of The Guardian says, ‘about two extraordinary women who waged a battle for survival , with neither time nor energy for politics.’

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Nonsuch, I've merged your thread with the existing one.

A great book  I can't wait till episode 2 comes out in paperback. Apparently he will be writing a third one once his political career is behind him.

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