This Boy

  • by Alan Johnson
  • Narrated by Alan Johnson
  • 7 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's 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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.

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- Alan

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.
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- R. J. Gladden

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-05-2013
  • Publisher: Random House Audiobooks