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Life Without Armour by Alan Sillitoe
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Life Without Armour

by Alan Sillitoe

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This is Alan Sillitoe's biography, it takes him through his childhood to the age of thirty. I found it a vivid and emotional read. Emotional, because he describes a world I know well, although I suffered none of the hardship or poverty that he did. I am a generation younger, my parents were of his generation. My mother was born in a council house a few miles from where he was brought up. The accents and places are the accents and places of my aunts and uncles. My father spent 2 years in hospital (although with polio, not TB). Almost everywhere mentioned in the East Midlands I know, from the Raleigh factory, to the Nottingham streets (my teenage Friday and Saturday nights were spent in them), to the Iron Works at Stanton and even the stunted little Hemlock Stone. Strangely, he then went on to mention various forces postings in places I have lived near, including Raf Halton and Wing. I find it difficult to be objective about this book because it resonates so strongly.

Alan Sillitoe seemed to me to me extremely fortunate, he had the individualism and strength of character to break from his background, despite there being no pressure on him to better himself, and yet that very lack of expectations allowed him to do whatever he wanted, to travel in hope and just keep on writing until he became a sensation with the publication of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. I read this book immediately after reading The Open Door, which is a fiction, but draws very heavily on his life in the same period. I'm now re-reading Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which is the book he writes about in the last few chapters of his autobiography.

I read this autobiography with some envy, wishing that my life had been like his, wishing that I hadn't been forced into narrow choices by expectations and thinking him a lucky man until I read this extraordinary and telling last page :

...I immersed myself in work that came out of the coal measures of my subconscious, and never allowed sufficient time to elapse between novels in which I could be intimidated by what the 'normal' world looked on as 'success'. Nor was it possible for me to work and live, and though that decision was to be a mistake as far as my life was concerned, it was necessary because there was not enough energy in me to do both.

Happiness is more elusive than I thought. ( )
  Greatrakes | Mar 1, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0006384307, Paperback)

An account of the physical and mental maturing of the English novelist Alan Sillitoe, author of "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" and "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner".

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:08 -0400)

This is the autobiography of the formative years of one of our finest writers, Alan Sillitoe. This new edition recounts his early years in Nottingham, evacuation, life in the army, TB, and his rebirth as an angry young man. This is a memorable telling of his physical and mental 'growing up'.… (more)

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