'A gorgeously exuberant account. . . writing that is natural and vivacious . . . a fascinating and hugely enjoyable read.' Bernardine Evaristo, from the Introduction Travelling over from Jamaica as a teenager, Barbara's journey is remarkable. She finds her footing in TV, and blossoms. Covering incredible celebrity stories, travelling around the world and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Germaine Greer and Michael Caine - her life sparkles. But with the responsibility of being the first black woman reporting on TV comes an enormous amount of pressure, and a flood of hateful letters and complaints from viewers that eventually costs her the job. In the aftermath of this fallout, she goes through a period of self-discovery that allows her to carve out a new space for herself first in the UK and then back home in Jamaica - one that allows her to embrace and celebrate her black identity, rather than feeling suffocated in her attempts to emulate whiteness and conform to the culture around her. Growing Out provides a dazzling, revelatory depiction of race and womanhood in the 1960s from an entirely unique perspective. A title in the Black Britain: Writing Back series - selected by Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo, this series rediscovers and celebrates pioneering books depicting black Britain that remap the nation.
Veering from the hilarious to the tragic, Andrew Mitchell's tales from the parliamentary jungle make for one of the most entertaining political memoirs in years. From his prep school years, straight out of Evelyn Waugh, through the Army to Cambridge, the City of London and the Palace of Westminster, Mitchell has passed through a series of British institutions at a time of furious social and political change - in the process becoming rather more cynical about the British Establishment. Here, he reflects on the perils and pleasures of loyalty, whether to a party, to individuals or to one's own principles. He brilliantly lifts the lid on the dark arts of the government Whips' Office ('Whipping, like stripping, is best done in private') and reveals how he accidentally started Boris Johnson's political career and later naively backed him to be Prime Minister - an act which rebounded on him spectacularly. Mitchell also writes candidly about the Plebgate fiasco, which led to four police officers being sacked for gross misconduct and in one case imprisoned, while Mitchell himself faced a bill of millions of pounds in legal fees after losing his libel case. Engagingly honest about his ups and downs in politics, Beyond a Fringe is crammed with hilarious political anecdotes and irresistible insider gossip from the heart of Westminster.
Lady Hale is an inspirational figure admired for her historic achievements and for the causes she has championed. Spider Woman is her story. As President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale won global attention in finding the 2019 prorogation of Parliament to be unlawful. Yet that dramatic moment was merely the pinnacle of a career throughout which she was hailed as a pioneering reformer. As 'a little girl from a little school in a little village in North Yorkshire', she only went into the law because her headteacher told her she wasn't clever enough to study history. She became the most senior judge in the country. How does a self-professed 'girly swot' get ahead in a profession dominated by men? A lifelong smasher of glass-ceilings, who took as her motto 'women are equal to everything', her landmark rulings in areas including domestic violence, divorce, mental health and equality were her attempt to correct that. Wise, warm and inspiring, Spider Woman shows how the law shapes our world. It is the story of how Lady Hale found that she could overcome the odds and change British law for good.
Jeff Hoon served as a Cabinet Minister for ten years in the Governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, holding office as Defence Secretary during British Military Operations in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq, as Leader of the House, Secretary of State for Transport, Government Chief Whip and two terms as Minister for Europe. For eighteen years he was also the Member of Ashfield and represented Derbyshire in the European Parliament for ten years. In See How They Run, he gives a fulsome, and refreshingly frank account of his rise from a railway family in Long Eaton near Derby (his Dad expected him to have a career as a railwayman) through knocking on doors for the Labour Party to holding high political office, and in so doing he reveals himself to be a hard working, career politician driven by an innate sense of morality and justice. That his achievements were born from inauspicious academic beginnings - Hoon describes struggling academically until he realised that doing his homework properly would make a huge difference - make his rise all the more impressive and very human. What makes this memoir different is that Hoon has a touching and endearing ability to place the reader “in the room" during moments of high political drama with the same clarity with which he describes seeing Parliament through a bus window being as a junior school pupil and or his poignant recollection of a near neighbour who had been captured by the Japanese in WWII and worked on the Burma railway. If political memoirs are not your usual reading fare, this excellent book should change your mind, as part real-life thriller, part heart-warming account of one man’s career, it is beautifully written and goes a long way to restoring a sense of faith and gratitude for those who seek and assume the burdens and responsibilities of public office.
At once personal, politically-charged, moving and witty, John Chick Donohue’s The Greatest Beer Run Ever is an engaging account of a Vietnam vet’s tracking down of his former comrades-in-arms to bring them a beer from home. Living up to its title, it really does read like the greatest beer run ever, and will have readers interested in the human side of history laughing, crying and thinking in equal measure. Like so many of life’s momentous ideas, a night in a bar prompts ex-Marine and merchant seaman Chick Donohue to hatch his plan to return to Vietnam. But unlike most bar-based ideas, Chick actually goes through with his. Armed with a list of names, a rucksack of beer, and hoping for a sprinkling of Irish luck, he sets off, though he admits that “I still had my doubts that I could pull it off.” This fascinating, enthralling account sees the author having to use his gift of the gab to press on past check-points before tackling multiple dangers and coming face to face with unexpected realities when he reaches Vietnam - realities that bring him to a big realisation: “I began to see that the protesters, however disrespectfully, were at least trying to stop this madness…If there is one thing that I learned as a result of my Vietnam experience it’s that government - all governments for that matter - are not to be trusted. Many politicians lie when it serves their interests.” This is tasty food for thought with universal resonance.