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This Boy by Alan Johnson

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I usually avoid politician’s self-aggrandising memoirs like the plague but this one is very different, a fascinating study of how life can be changed by the merest trifle, you can be sunk or you can be saved, Alan Johnson was one of the saved. As he acknowledges in his memoir it was thanks first to his mother then his elder sister that he didn’t find himself in the care system. Home life was a succession of substandard houses, not quite Rachmanite but near-enough; his mother had heart problems, his father fonder of a bet and a drink than family life. Yet, somehow Alan Johnson got from this London back-slum to Parliament, a journey that few other politicians can claim.

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This Boy by Alan Johnson

London's Notting Hill in the 1950s was an unimaginably different place to the white stucco splendour it's known for today. Alan Johnson's family lived in condemned housing, declared unfit for human habitation, in a cramped flat with no central heating, no electricity and no running water. His mother, Lily, battled against poor health, poverty, domestic violence and chronic loneliness to try and ensure a better life for her children. His sister, Linda, took on an adult's burden of responsibility and fought to keep the family together when she was still only a child. This personal story is played out against the background of a community on the verge of massive upheavals. We move from postwar austerity, through the early days of immigration and race riots, into the swinging Sixties, when Alan and his band recorded a record on Denmark Street and he became a teenage father and husband. No matter how harsh the detail, Alan writes with a spirit of generous acceptance, humour and openness which makes his book anything but a grim catalogue of misery. In the end, This Boy is about success against all the odds, and paints a vivid portrait of a bygone era.


The best memoir by a politician you will ever read -- Philip Collins The Times

A poignant memoir.Johnson writes wonderfully -- Mary Kenny Telegraph

Deeply moving and unforgettable -- Lynn Barber Sunday Times

A handsome and eloquent tribute -- Peter Wilby Guardian

Beautifully, beautifully written... his style is utterly simple, with a wit so understated that every reader will believe that he or she alone got it -- John Rentoul Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Alan Johnson was born in May 1950. He is a British Labour Party politician who served as Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010. Before that, he filled a wide variety of cabinet positions in both the Blair and Brown governments, including Health Secretary and Education Secretary. Until 20 January 2011 he was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. Johnson has been the Member of Parliament for Hull West and Hessle since 1997.

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Book Info

Publication date

27th February 2014


Alan Johnson

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Author's Website


Corgi Books an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd


304 pages


Biography / Autobiography
eBook Favourites

Autobiography: historical, political & military
Central government

20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000



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