> Skip to content
  • Published: 9 May 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448110483
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

This Boy

Winner of the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize 2014
Winner of the Orwell Prize 2014

'The best memoir by a politician you will ever read' The Times
School on the Kings Road, Chelsea in the Swinging 60s, the rock-and-roll years, the race riots; this boy has seen it all.

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 Britain's post-war slums, but in its transition from being part of a two-parent family to having a 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.

This Boy is one man's story, but it is also the story of England and the West London slums which are hard to imagine in the capital today. No matter how harsh the details, Alan Johnson writes with a spirit of generous acceptance, of humour and openness which makes his book anything but a grim catalogue of miseries.

'Moving and unforgettable' Sunday Times
'Poignant' Telegraph
'Eloquent' Guardian
'Wonderful' Spectator
'Tribute to two strong women' Daily Mail

  • Published: 9 May 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448110483
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

About the author

Alan Johnson

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 was the Member of Parliament for Hull West and Hessle until his retirement from politics in 2017.
His first book, This Boy, won the RSL Ondaatje Prize and the Orwell Prize in 2013. His second, Please Mister Postman, won the National Book Award for Autobiography of the Year in 2014. His third, The Long and Winding Road, was published in 2016 and won the Parliamentary Book Award for Best Memoir.

Also by Alan Johnson

See all

Praise for This Boy

Wonderful and moving... unreadable with a dry eye

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

Neither mawkish nor sentimental, it is an evocative, filmic account on an early childhood... would make a fabulous drama that, for all its squalor, lifts the spirits

Judith Woods, Daily Telegraph

the best memoir by a politician you will ever read

Philip Collins, The Times

a testament to the power of family love and a tribute to two strong women

Ian Birrell, Daily Mail

the biography of a politician like no other - beautifully observed, humorous, moving, uplifting; told with a dry self-deprecating wit and not a trace of self-pity

Chris Mullin, Observer

No ordinary politician's memoir ... wonderful.

John Grimond, The Spectator

Truly remarkable. A brilliant portrait of what it was like growing up poor in London in the 1950s.

Julia Langdon, The Tablet

I love this book. Here is a classic account of working class life... It deserves to the read and admired

Paul Bailey, The Oldie

gracefully written

Times Literary Supplement

Alan Johnson may be the best Labour prime minister Britain never had, but his exceptional memoir is mercifully free of politics. all this he recalls in quiet, unpretentious prose

Intelligent Life

Outstanding... Hailed by readers of all parties and none, it is a popular piece of literature rated by Hilary Mantel, with a rare ability to make old men cry


An amazing and inspiring story

Claire Tomalin, Independent

The most extraordinary insight into growing up in urban poverty in our time

Jon Snow

He recalls his childhood in detail, plainly, movingly, sometimes amusingly, but without a trace of self-pity or bitterness.a handsome and eloquent tribute


Related titles