Behind The Black Door
By Sarah Brown
Ebury Press – £13.99
Apart from the writing itself, what essentially accounts for a personal memoir being good or bad, wonderful or shocking, invaluable or disposable, is the degree to which the person doing the telling, actually has something to say. Take the footballer Michael Owen; he may well have led a charmed and relatively interesting sporting career – filled with countless highs and lows while playing for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle, Manchester United and of course, England – but were he to attempt regaling as much in a personal memoir, one would feel inured towards some form of partial suicide.
Such would the vexed tedium of his exceedingly dull personality reign forth.
Likewise, most people involved in sport or pop or politics. Does anyone really care about what the likes of Aaron Lennon, yet another runner-up on the deplorable X Factor or David Milliband has to say? Let alone write in their memoirs?
Herein we have 447 pages of Sarah Brown (occasionally) waxing lyrical about her relatively short time at Number Ten Downing Street. Now I must say here and now, I rather like Gordon Brown. To my mind, he was and still is, the real deal. Not only is he exceedingly intelligent, he was and perhaps remains, the consummate politician; traits, which Sarah Brown must not only be attracted to, but if this book is anything to go by, must surely have herself.
I first heard about Behind the Black Door via its authoress promoting it on the BBC World Service, and felt compelled to investigate further. But having done so, I cannot help but feel a tad disappointed. I was under the impression the book was going to be more autobiographical, tracing the years as First Lady to Gordon Brown. Instead, all thirty-one chapters are nothing other than elongated diary excerpts, with FAR TOO MANY mentions of Marks and bloody Spencers and what particular designer outfits our Sarah was going to be wearing on any given occasion. In ‘Election Speculation,’ she writes: ‘’Today is the Queen’s Speech and my first time to sit up in the House of Lords gallery to watch the State Opening of Parliament ceremony. I have a great jacket from M&S to wear in a strong on-trend acid yellow, and I have found a navy hat at Selfridges that has just the right little bit of yellow in the band to go with it […]. While in ‘Lunch in Beijing, Shanghai and New Delhi,’ she comments: ‘’I have a nice mixture of things to wear for China. Knowing that everyone will be in very business-like suits – especially in Shanghai – I have some well-cut Jaeger bits, some Burberry, a bit of Marks and Spencer, some Top Shop, plus nice summery Monsoon things as it will be very hot.’’
That said, the book does shed invariable light into the terrifically busy lifestyle the Browns led whilst at numbers Ten and Eleven. Between two small boys to bring-up, charity work, numerous photo-calls, foreign trips and an endless barrage of functions to attend, one has to say hats-off-to’em (just so long as said hats aren’t from M&S). I wouldn’t want to do it!
Reading this book, one does come away with the distinct impression that Sarah Brown is totally devoted to Gordon and Labour Party policy. The old adage that ‘behind every man great man is a great woman’ is more than evident throughout. Not in the sense that Sarah Brown dictates or wears the trousers, but more in the sense that she is nothing less than one-hundred-per-cent behind her husband.
That, and the fact that she comes across as being totally honest – which, in this day and age of slander, swing-door marriage and the continuing phone hacking debacle care of Scum Bags Are Us – really is quite something.
The authoress supports a number of very worthy charities, among them: