Friday, 27 February 2009

Dare to be a Daniel

Title: Dare to be a Daniel

Author: Tony Benn

Number of pages: 278

Started: 22 February 2009

Finished: 27 February 2009

Opening words:

I was born in 1925 into an Edwardian household influenced by Victorian values. Although I enjoyed a degree of security and privilege denied to most people, I was also the child of radical, nonconformist parents, and life at home was shaped by a tradition of austerity lightened by my father’s sense of fun. Writing this book about my childhood, and its domestic, family and political events and experiences, has led me to examine how these elements combined during my growing up in the inter-war years to determine my character and beliefs.

The discipline of recalling childhood events and memories, and the origins and development of my own faith, has also helped me to analyse more specifically than ever before the nature of my belief, and why and how my views have developed over the years.

Read the first chapter here.

Plot summary:

Born into a family with a strong, radical dissenting tradition in which enterprise and public service were combined, Tony Benn was taught to believe that the greatest sins in life was to waste time and money. Life in his Victorian–Edwardian family home in Westminster was characterised by austerity, the last vestiges of domestic service, the profound influence of his mother, a dedicated Christian and feminist, and his colourful and courageous father, elected as a Liberal MP in 1906 and later serving in Labour Cabinets under Ramsay MacDonald and Clem Atlee.

Dare to be a Daniel feelingly recalls Tony Benn’s years as one of three brothers experiencing life in the nursery, the agonies of adolescence and of school, where boys were taught to ‘keep their minds clean’, and the shadow of fascism and war with its disruption and family loss; and describes his emergence from the war as a keen socialist about to embark upon marriage and an unknown political future. The book ends with some of Tony Benn’s reflections on many of the most important and controversial issues of our time.

What I thought:

This was an interesting read about a well-known politician. It helped to put some context on where Tony Benn came from and why he held the beliefs that he did. It was an easy read, although some of the events referred to would have meant more to people who had lived through them. It was very simple writing, which at times I found would have benefited from being a bit stronger, but the approachable style of it probably fairly reflects the author himself. An interesting read about an interesting man.

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