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Porridge and Passion Paperback – October 5, 2006
The Amazon Book Review
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MAIL ON SUNDAY 'Aitken's earlier volumes of memoirs, Pride and Perjury, which he completed a few days before entering prison, chronicled his fall from grace. It was more muddled in its intent, veering uneasily between abject penitence and furious self-righteousness. Here in this second volume, his state of mind, and therefore the tone of the book, are both clearer.'
'A rich collection of humorous tales of prison life... Aitken seems to have found a new vocation as both a funny writer and a serious prison reformer.' Tablet
About the Author
Jonathan Aitken, a former MP and cabinet minister, is the author of 12 books, including his award-winning biography of President Richard Nixon. His recent titles published by Continuum include Pride and Perjury, Psalms for People under Pressure, Prayers for People under Pressure, Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed, Heroes and Contemporaries and Nazarbayev and the Making of Kazakhstan.
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In the opening paragraph his butler is bringing him his favourite morning coffee. In the second paragraph he’s sipping tap water in a cell in HMP Bellmarsh while nearby prisoners chant obscene remarks to him. It’s this contrast that makes the book so fascinating. And Aitken doesn’t pull any punches. He describes the conditions in prison, his depressions, his struggles, his fears. And it’s as if we share a cell with him as he digs deep into his own character and his personal faith to face his demons and attempt to conquer them.
It’s a tremendously exciting journey that Aitken takes us on as he serves his sentence and comes out on the other side a changed man. I not only enjoyed the ride immensely but was challenged to view prison life and prisoners completely differently. So I would actually say that the book – which describes a man changed through circumstances and his personal faith – ended up changing me too!
The book is by turns disturbing, frightening, funny and poignant. Aitken has the ability to focus on an aspect of life and recreate it, as well as the ability to apply his considerable intellectual and human skills to major social challenges such as prison reform (one of his new passions).
Some people will continue to have reservations about his reformation. I must here declare that I now have none: (1) he acknowledges his fault simply and clearly (though I would have liked greater insight into why he lied under oath in court, I am not sure that we humans really understand our motivations very well); (2) he has paid the price that society required of him; and (3) he has gone about paying his debt to God and to his family with simplicity and (as far as I can work out) with consistency. His new life seems entirely admirable.
If you are looking for an inspiring gift for someone, or simply for your next book to read, I warmly recommend this book and I am myself looking forward to reading his other books.