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Summary

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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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Alan
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 14-04-14

Nostalgia, not what it used to be...

Where does This Boy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is one of the best, if not the best, listens I've bought from Audible.

What was one of the most memorable moments of This Boy?

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.

Have you listened to any of Alan Johnson’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I think this is his only title. I've listened to him prattle in the House of Commons though...

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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the boy

what a powerful, honest book, I have only respect for his mother and sisters struggles to keep the family together, I don't do politics but I can see know why Mr Johnson is so highly regarded,

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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truthful

excellent clean narration of working class roots told honestly through the resilient child not the later successful man

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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great read

A touching tale of a hard West London upbringing in the 50's and 60's around Paddington,the Grove and the Bush.

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really enjoyable book .

Great story very interesting and very well read. the mother reminds me of my mum great lady.

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The not swinging 59s

This is a non sentimental account of what it was like to grow up poor in the 50s. I’m just a bit younger than Johnson but shared many of the same battles against grinding poverty. I too came out of it by the skin of my teeth, luck and a good brain. Made me laugh and cry. Superb

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This boy

Brilliant autobiography, well told by Alan Johnson himself. I can't wait to read the next instalment of his interesting life. I can thoroughly recommend it, a very good listen.