Please, Mister Postman
Please, Mister Postman by Alan Johnson
This was enjoyed by the group, yet did not achieve highest marks. Everyone awarded it 3 or 4 out of 5.
Alan Johnson shows no desire to return to frontline politics, having quit after four unhappy months as shadow chancellor in 2011, citing "personal issues".
Please, Mister Postman is the sequel to This Boy, covering Alan Johnson's life from the start of his first marriage, aged 18, to its end in his mid-30s. These are the years during which he left the slums of west London and moved to a council house on the Britwell estate in Slough.
Johnson's next decade was far less turbulent Readers of the first book might find the slow pace of the second jarring at first. This Boy revealed that Johnson had crammed in an enormous amount of living before he had even reached adulthood.
As a newlywed he was warned on arriving in Slough that the Britwell estate was dangerous but it turned out to be a haven; a tightknit circle of houses around a village green.
The attraction of This Boy for left-wing readers was obvious: it showed the quiet horror of life before the NHS and the creation of the welfare state's safety net. This Boy showed that there was at least one "big beast" left in the Labour party who could talk about the struggles of life on the breadline in practical, rather than theoretical, terms.
That tone – matter of fact, free from personal defensiveness – is also evident in his writing on race. We hear about the graffiti hoping to "Keep Britwell White", and of the many Asian and black immigrants working in the postal service, but Johnson is not here to talk politics, or at least not in the way that politicians do. He paints the picture, but he prefers to let the reader draw her own conclusions about what it depicts.
He also makes an unshowy case for the trade union movement, even while acknowledging its flaws.