Please, Mister Postman


Please, Mister Postman – A Memoir
By Alan Johnson
Bantam Press – £16.99

I’m still trying to work out why this book was written. As a memoir, it’s not particularly that interesting; while as a so-called counterpart to that of England during the seventies, it really doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know.

Admittedly, I was initially attracted to the book as a direct result of its rather Beatlesesque sounding title, which, upon reflection, was perhaps not a good idea. Nevertheless, I really thought Please, Mister Postman was going to reign supreme within the tremulous stakes of considered poignancy.

It doesn’t.

There are moments within the former Home Secretary’s (2009/10) writing that do indeed transport the reader back to a time of perplexed innocence; but in my humble opinion, there’s absolutely nothing about Alan Johnson’s most relaxed waxing of lyrical approach that leaps out of the page and makes one pause for thought.

Suicide and death after all, are part of everyday life. It’s in the telling and the sharing, that makes all, if any difference.

Other than the honesty with which the author clearly/endearingly writes, there’s consummately nothing to write home about. And after having been somewhat influenced by the abundance of praise for Johnson’s first memoir This Boy (”Outstanding… Hailed by readers of all parties and none, it is a popular piece of literature with a rare ability to make old men cry,” The Guardian), I found a little disappointing to say the least.

These twenty-two chapters are nothing other than a linear account of Alan Johnson’s life as a London/Slough postman – who eventually traversed through the (yawn induced) ranks, before becoming General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union before entering Parliament as a Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle in 1997.

It’s warm. It’s safe. It’s unfortunately (very) dull.

David Marx


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