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This boy de Alan Johnson
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This boy (2013 original; edició 2014)

de Alan Johnson

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
1678127,375 (4.14)60
'The best memoir by a politician you will ever read' Philip Collins, The Times School on the Kings Road, Chelsea in the Swinging 60s, the rock-and-roll years, the race riots; this boy has seen it all. ________ Alan Johnson's childhoodwas 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 Britain's post-war slums, but in its transition from being part of a two-parent family to having a 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. This Boy is one man's story, but it is also the story of England and the West London slums which are hard to imagine in the capital today. No matter how harsh the details, Alan Johnson writes with a spirit of generous acceptance, of humour and openness which makes his book anything but a grim catalogue of miseries. ________ PRAISE FOR THIS BOY- 'Moving and unforgettable' Sunday Times 'Poignant' Telegraph 'Eloquent' Guardian 'Wonderful' Spectator 'Tribute to two strong women' Daily Mail… (més)
Membre:farrpau
Títol:This boy
Autors:Alan Johnson
Informació:London : Corgi, 2014.
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
Etiquetes:No n'hi ha cap

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This Boy de Alan Johnson (2013)

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Es mostren 1-5 de 8 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Brilliantly told story of life as an impoverished family in various slum homes in west London during the 1950s, most of it with a single parent and an incredibly resolute older sister who kept the family together. Highly recommended. ( )
  edwardsgt | Jul 26, 2019 |
This Boy - Alan Johnson

I loved this book and have given copies to friends, but don't know where to begin with this review. Words to adequately describe it fail me (though it won't stop me blethering on). Suffice it to say that it won the Orwell Prize in 2014 as well as the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.

For those unfamiliar with Alan Johnson, the brief biographical note in this book states that he was born in May 1950 and was General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union before entering Parliament as a Labour MP in 1997. He had a number of cabinet positions in the Blair and Brown Governments, including Health Secretary and Education Secretary, and until 20 January 2011 was Shadow Chancellor the Exchequer.

OK, you say, so far so dry, another political memoir. But you would be so very very wrong.

Johnson has somehow written a memoir of a life of considerable hardship and poverty which in any other hands would surely have been eligible for the 'miserable lives' category but which in his is a remarkable social document recording the good and the bad with considerable objectivity. Furthermore it is a hymn of praise to the love and strength of his mother and of his sister, who at a very young age over responsibility for the family. It is a surprisingly warm and optimistic book.

Chapter 1 begins "My sister Linda and I were born either side of the creation of the National Health Service in 1948. I like to think our relative birth weights had something to do with Labour's achievement. In 1947, Linda weighed just 5lbs 4 oz and was so tiny that she slept on a pillow in a drawer, which was convenient given that there was no room for a cot. By contrast, I put the 'boom' into baby boomer, weighing in at 10lbs on 17 May 1950."

The Johnsons lived in conditions which it is shocking to be reminded pertained in London as recently as the mid twentieth century. (Depressingly it is probably the case that there are some people still living much like this, but hopefully less likely that such conditions will apply to entire neighbourhoods.) His parents and sister lived in one room until he was born, but after his birth the charitable trust which owned the building allowed them to move to a two room apartment higher up the stairs. All the buildings on the street had been condemned in the 1930s. There was no electricity in the building, and the only toilet, shared by upwards of five families, was in the concrete yard which backed onto the railway line. The gas street lamps were lit by a lamplighter who arrived by bicycle. Alan's mother told the children he was the Sandman, come to send them to sleep. The houses were finally declared unfit for human habitation and demolished in the 1960s. Because conditions in the buildings were so bad children and adults spent as much of their time as they could in the street, and life in those streets was recorded by the photojournalist Roger Mayne in a series of photographs taken between 1956 and 1961, some of which are reproduced in the book.

Mayne's photographs also record the ethnic mix of the neighbourhood where relations between the whites and the black West Indians were uneasy; the Notting Hill Riots happened in 1958 and in 1959 Oswald Mosley returned from France to stand as North Kensington candidate in the General Election for the Union Movement (a British Fascist organisation founded by Mosley).

Johnson's mother had been clever enough to win a scholarship at a good school, but her father, having forced her to work for it, refused to buy the uniform necessary for her to take it up. Although home was comfortable, her father's cruelty and the burden of having to run the house and look after her many siblings must have made any chance of escape appealing and to a girl of eighteen Steve Johnson, a charming musician, would have looked a good bet, but he turned out to be a feckless womanising ne'er do well, ultimately abandoning her, and despite chronic poor health Lily had to take whatever work she could get to support the family, reduced to walking the streets of Notting Hill with a bag to collect any coal fallen from delivery carts. (For anyone familiar with West London the book is fascinating for its reminders of the comparatively recent squalor of addresses now inhabited by bankers.)

For years Linda and Alan ensured that no hint of their home circumstances leaked out to anyone who might feel that intervention was necessary and when Lily died in 1964, aged forty-two, the same age at which her mother and grandmother had died, sixteen-year-old Linda dealt with the authorities, won the right for herself and Alan to continue to live alone together rather than go into care or to distant relatives, and took over all responsibility for Alan. (Linda's boyfriend, Mike, was also remarkable through all of this.)

By the end of 1968 the eighteen-year-old Alan had married, become a father, and begun the career with the Post Office which would ultimately take him to Parliament.

This really is a very good book, full of remarkable anecdotes (the story of the charity children's holiday is one of my favourites) which also give pause for thought.

After reading this I began his follow up, Please, Mister Postman, which I have not finished, perhaps because what I read of it was a perfectly adequate memoir of happy married life on an estate in a small town and early days of becoming involved in politics its subject matter was not so remarkable. Perhaps I should peek at the end to see if there is any interesting stuff about national politics and infighting in the Blair/Brown years of the Labour party, but then again.....
1 vota Oandthegang | Dec 1, 2015 |
This is a simply written account of the Labour politician's early years; growing up in poverty in the slums of North Kensington, not very far from where I was brought up, albeit 5 years earlier. His story is a moving one and one with which I felt many personal associations. There is nothing to suggest his future career in politics and I look forward to volume 2 to see how that evolved. Recommended! ( )
  johnwbeha | Nov 18, 2015 |
I have always enjoyed politicians' memoirs, and this must rank as one of the best I have read. I was particularly interested to read this book as Alan Johnson had, briefly, been Secretary of State in my Department. It's true that, throughout his short period in the Department for Education, he had been conspicuous principally by his virtual invisibility but I still thought that he might have some juicy morsel to dispense, with which to whet the salacious appetites of my fellow functionaries.

I am sure that he could offer such morsels in abundance, but there are none in this book, chiefly because it closes just after Johnson's marriage at the age of eighteen. The book does, however, offer a moving picture of his early struggles, growing up in poverty in West London in the 1950s. There has been a succession of gruelling 'misery memoirs' over recent years, most of which have left the reader feeling compassion depletion. This book is not like that at all. There are some awful incidents but the prevailing feeling is one of triumph over adversity.

It is also the story of two magnificent women: Johnson's mother, Lily, who worked herself into a tragically early grave in her efforts to keep the family afloat, despite her own poor health; and Linda, his elder sister who strove equally hard to try to reduce the burden on their mother and then, after Lily's death, to make sure that she and Alan could stay together and weren't consumed by the machinery of social care. Johnson's father, Steve, was absent for much of Johnson's childhood, and even before he abandoned the family home made little worthwhile contribution to their constant struggle against debt.

The Johnson family lived in what would now be called Notting Hill though in the 1950s it was also referred to as Notting Dale, or West Kensal, or North Kensington. Whatever the name, it was an area that would now be termed a pocket of deprivation, with much of the population being cooped up in tiny rental property owned by Peter Rachman. Johnson's father was a painter and decorator by trade, but was also an accomplished pianist and would regularly perform in local pubs. He was, however, also an inveterate gambler and drinker, and consequently was seldom able to contribute to meeting the family's weekly household bills. Lily, meanwhile, was holding down several jobs, working as a cleaner, waitress and kitchen hand, struggling to scrape together enough to feed and clothe Linda and Alan. The picture of 1950s West London is intriguing. The Johnson family lived in a 'play street' with no traffic, and much of their daily life was actually passed out in the road.

Notting Hill has become a byword for genteel and fashionable life, and exorbitant property prices, but this was not the case when Alan Johnson was growing up. The notorious Notting Hill riots of 1958 took place in the next street from the Johnsons' home, and shortly afterwards Lily witnessed the early stages of an altercation that would culminate in the race-motivated murdered of an African-Caribbean man outside the pub on the corner of their road. A few years later Alan Johnson took a job helping the local milkman, and his round included making deliveries to 10 Ruston Place which, until just a few years earlier, had, under its original name of 10 Rillington Place, been the scene of John Reginald Christie's brutal series of murders.

Johnson's writing style is simple and direct, tinged with a wry humour. Even though the basic tenet of his story is about his grim childhood, he doesn't labour the point, and his book is imbued with hope. All very entertaining. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Sep 24, 2015 |
This is a very moving memoir by the former Labour Cabinet Minister, covering his early years up until his early marriage and entry into working life in the Post Office, both at the age of 18. It details the struggles and hardships of his upbringing, with his neglectful father Steve abandoning his family; his mother Lily working at cleaning and waitressing jobs all hours to make ends meet, despite being frequently hospitalised with the heart condition that killed her at the age of 42 (the same age at which her own mother and grandmother had also died); and his upbringing by his slightly older but very mature sister Linda. There are heartbreaking moments and it is quite shocking to read about the family's housing conditions in west London in the 1950s and early 1960s, which shocked even contemporaries, including other members of the family from Lily's native Liverpool after her death, when they discovered the suffering that she had kept secret from the wider family. The author writes tellingly of the importance of food to him, as he grew up knowing genuine gnawing hunger, cold and suffering, something that can be said of very few if any other contemporary or recent politicians in this country. That said, this book is not a grim "misery memoir", but warm-hearted and full of good humour, with the latter stages detailing his musical escapades in various bands in the swinging London of the mid 60s. A great read. 5/5 ( )
1 vota john257hopper | Jun 13, 2015 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 8 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Johnson, who was to hold five Cabinet posts including that of home secretary, was born five years after the war at the wrong end of pre-gentrification Notting Hill or, to be more precise, North Kensington. It was a world of slum landlords, gang warfare, race riots and, it must be said, a strong sense of community. His first home was two rooms in a tenement that, even before the war, had been declared unfit for habitation. There was no indoor toilet, no bathroom, the kitchen was a stove on the landing and the electricity was metered, which meant the family were constantly scrabbling for shillings and often had to rely on candles for light. As a young teenager he recounts walking the streets with an old pram scavenging for coal and the repeated humiliation of having to ask local shopkeepers for goods on tick.

His mother, Lily, a respectable working-class woman from Liverpool, had made the mistake of marrying Steve, a feckless ne'er-do-well who played the piano in local pubs and eventually ran off with a barmaid, after which his only contact with his family was the occasional postal order. "Steve was a dark shadow in our lives…My fear wasn't losing a father, it was having one," writes Johnson.

This is the biography of a politician like no other. From time to time one has to pinch oneself to recall that this is not an account of childhood in Victorian England but of life in the England of the 1950s and 60s, the era when many of us had never had it so good. Far from being a misery memoir, however, it is beautifully observed, humorous, moving, uplifting; told with a dry, self-deprecating wit and not a trace of self-pity.

Given his start in life Alan Johnson could have been forgiven had he turned into an angry, bitter class-warrior instead of the affable, sensible, laidback politician that he was to become. Over and over I kept thinking how proud his poor mother would be had she lived long enough to see how young Alan turned out.
afegit per VivienneR | editaThe Guardian, Chris Mullin (May 11, 2013)
 

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for Linda, who kept me safe
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No n'hi ha cap

'The best memoir by a politician you will ever read' Philip Collins, The Times School on the Kings Road, Chelsea in the Swinging 60s, the rock-and-roll years, the race riots; this boy has seen it all. ________ Alan Johnson's childhoodwas 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 Britain's post-war slums, but in its transition from being part of a two-parent family to having a 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. This Boy is one man's story, but it is also the story of England and the West London slums which are hard to imagine in the capital today. No matter how harsh the details, Alan Johnson writes with a spirit of generous acceptance, of humour and openness which makes his book anything but a grim catalogue of miseries. ________ PRAISE FOR THIS BOY- 'Moving and unforgettable' Sunday Times 'Poignant' Telegraph 'Eloquent' Guardian 'Wonderful' Spectator 'Tribute to two strong women' Daily Mail

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