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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

The number one best seller about the world that shaped Boris Johnson.

In 1975, as a child, Richard Beard was sent away from his home to sleep in a dormitory. So were David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

In those days a private boys' boarding school education was largely the same experience as it had been for generations: a training for the challenges of Empire. He didn't enjoy it. But the first and most important lesson was to not let that show.

Being separated from the people who love you is traumatic. How did that feel at the time, and what sort of adult does it mould?

This is a story about England, and a portrait of a type of boy, trained to lead, who becomes a certain type of man. As clearly as an X-ray, it reveals the make-up of those who seek power - what makes them tick, and why.

Sad Little Men addresses debates about privilege head-on; clearly and unforgettably, it shows the problem with putting a succession of men from boarding schools into positions of influence, including 10 Downing Street. Is this who we want in charge, especially at a time of crisis?

It is a passionate, tender reckoning - with one individual's past, but also with a national bad habit.

©2021 Richard Beard (P)2021 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Sad Little Men

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Highly recommended

This is a great blend of autobiography,political and social analysis, and psychology. The book is very well written and expertly narrated. It is both touching and laugh out loud at times. If you want to understand the psyche of those who are promoted beyond their merit to the upper echelons of British society, and the social systems which work hard to keep their class privilege in place, you will enjoy this book.

9 people found this helpful

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Memories flood back.

Vividly written and well read.
I didn’t go to prep boarding school but I went to an independent boarding school from 1965 to 1969. It was dreadful. The only thing I learned was how to make people laugh. Richard Beard brings this appalling existence to life. My mother died while I was at school and we didn’t go to her funeral. I’m now 72 and miss her more than ever.
Beard deals with emotions such as these extremely well.

6 people found this helpful

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Couldn’t finish the book. It was too awful

An outdated mean whining diatribe We know public schools were a bit grim. We know that Cameron is grim. We certainly know that Johnson and his basic Greek vocabulary is grim. I don’t need to see it regurgitated

3 people found this helpful

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Compulsory listening!

A revealing tale of how the public school system has fostered those who through dint of privilege have risen to the highest offices in the land. In my view, a most disturbing story.

3 people found this helpful

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The public school legacy

For anyone who wants to understand why we have such a despicable Tory government and why they get away with everything. For anyone who has yet to understand why there is such a difference between the us and them. For anyone who fails to see why some Tories who didn’t go to public school are keen to become Yes men and women… this book explains it all.

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A very interesting read

Easy to listen to. This book gives one a great understanding of why the current government is so entrenched in its belief that it can do whatever it likes with no thought for the effect on others; they are totally lacking in empathy and committed to self aggrandisement as their right. Although I can feel no sympathy for Johnson et al I can see that the way they were shaped has played a huge role in the way they are and the utter contempt in which they hold us, the proletariat.
A must read.

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Eye-opening

I and the public know/ What all school children learn/ Those to whom evil is done/ Do evil in return. Auden. These schools are inculcating generations into an almost sociopathic mindset of indifference to others and a veneration of nationalist brutality. Suddenly an awful lot of things fall into place whilst you're reading about how our society is ordered and for whom. I felt deeply sorry for these little boys but not the megalomaniacs they grew into. I'm also a little troubled by Beards's unsubstantiated assertions that several adult suicides can be traced to school trauma,. Despite the author's willingness to examine his education and his peers with steering honesty, the pain he carries can sometimes come across as an inadvertent excuse for their current behaviour. In this respect Beard is still in thrall to public school exceptionalism, many people suffer awful childhood experiences and don't go on to dismantle the NHS or advocate drowning refugees.

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The damage of boarding school: an insightful memoir from an author who’s been through it

Before listening to this memoir I didn’t know much about the boarding school system that has produced so many of the leading figures in our society. Having been through it himself, Beard’s honest and heartfelt take on the catastrophic impact it has on children’s emotional well-being is most insightful. By drawing on his own experiences, he explains how being sent to boarding school can cause lifelong issues with attachment and separation, which evokes the question: are these grown-ups, who were once such sad little men, really equipped to be running this country? I urge everyone to read or listen to this book! As Jonathan Coe tweeted it is ‘Britain explained.’

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Rather laboured, meandering and dull

Was so interested to listen to this given the powerful, class-based establishment that continues to throttle Britain but disappointed by a very cerebral account of his own experiences delivered in a dry manner. The book lacks the sharpness and insight I was hoping for with snippets and references to Johnson and Cameron peppering a rather dull book that left me none the wiser.

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what I suspected but never knew for sure

Ear-opening. Not my usual choice. Picked it up as a recommendation. Great narrator, voice and pace perfect.

1 person found this helpful