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This Boy

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This Boy, Alan Johnson, book reviewIn 1957, the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan told a meeting of fellow Conservatives that most of the country had ‘never had it so good’. Alan Johnson’s moving autobiography This Boy describes life for a family that did not share in Britain’s widespread prosperity.

The conditions in which the one time Labour Home Secretary grew up would have shocked many people even at the time: no electricity, damp rooms, a cooker on the landing, for a long time no living room, and emptying buckets of urine in the morning because it had been too cold to go outside to the toilet during the night. This is no tale of Victorian poverty and squalor – this is 1960s west London, the London of the notorious unscrupulous landlord Peter Rachman, of race riots and where violence was commonplace.

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