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Summary

Paulette Wilson had always assumed she was British. She had spent most of her life in London working as a cook; she even worked in the House of Commons' canteen. How could someone who had lived in England since being a primary school pupil suddenly be classified as an illegal immigrant?  

It was only through Amelia Gentleman's tenacious investigative and campaigning journalism that it emerged that thousands were in Paulette's position. What united them was that they had all arrived in the UK from the Commonwealth as children in the 1950s and 1960s. In The Windrush Betrayal, Gentleman tells the story of the scandal and exposes deeply disturbing truths about modern Britain. 

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©2019 Amelia Gentleman (P)2019 Faber & Faber Ltd

What listeners say about The Windrush Betrayal

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An exposé worthy of Jessica Mitford

The Windrush scandal exposed by Amelia Gentleman which exploded into headlines in the Guardian a couple of years ago was mostly just headlines to me. I don't usually read depressing stories of state cruelty to the brown folks who populate the immigration detention centres of the UK and the US. It's too awful. I usually skip to the next story. So I was glad to see she'd written a whole book, a way for me to get a belated handle on the scandal. Gentleman narrates the story herself and as she calmly and clearly develops her theme you can detect some icy outrage at the enormity of the harm caused by the catastrophic indifference of public officials. It's a gripping tale, Gentleman brings the victims' stories alive and then tells us how she used her amazing journalistic skills to expose misdeeds at the highest reaches of the government (spoiler alert: the Home Secretary had to resign). Then she takes us to Jamaica to track down some of the Windrush victims stuck there. Okay, Mitford, writing about an equally horrific subject (The American Way of Death), has more jokes, but Windrush Betrayal has its lol moments. As she and a Hubert, a man with whom the Home Office had toyed for 13 years - and who didn't quite survive, dying a few months after the publication of the book - emerge triumphant with his passport from Lunar House, a depressing immigration building in a depressing part of London, she says to herself, "This is one of the ugliest corners of Britain, and you could forgive anyone emerging from the Home Office's automatic glass doors, finally British, for having a flash of buyer's remorse as they survey this unwelcoming vision." This is a wonderful read and I can almost forgive her for being married to Boris Johnson's brother.

16 people found this helpful

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A shocking exposé of racism and betrayal

As I listened to this excellent depiction of the scandal surrounding the treatment meted out to the Windrush generation, I became more and more shocked and ashamed of Britain's betrayal of people who came to 'the motherland' to aid our economy.

It is a tale of abject racism, appalling conduct by The Home Office (under various Prime Ministers) and callous disregard of human rights. That it could happen in the 21st century is truly, truly shocking. The Guardian and Amelia Gentleman are to be applauded for exposing this sorry tale.

This is a disturbing book but one that should be widely read so that everyday citizens can demand better future conduct of politicians, civil servants and third party agencies.

15 people found this helpful

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Sad. Depressing. Challenging.

I wasn’t sure about this book when it started. Amelia’s descriptions were too divisive. I pictured anyone that had sympathy with the Conservative party being turned off by the language which pitched “good” against “evil”. But this soon toned down and was replaced with facts. So much evidence I became utterly absorbed. Saddened. I challenged my own decision making in my own job. It’s a fascinating - albeit depressing read - not least because we still read stories of deportations of one kind or another.
I guess my only question about this book is who is it for? Or rather will it change an opinion? If you’re right wing in your thinking or simply a racist, will these stories make you change your ugly ways? Probably not. It’s therefore for people who knew that this was a tragic case, and simply wants to understand more of a headline.

13 people found this helpful

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Informative, heartbreaking and honest account

Informative, heartbreaking and honest account that gives the victims of this scandal a real voice. Well worth a listen

5 people found this helpful

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Racial Injustice

This book will make you ashamed to be British. I believe in fairness, equality, dignity and kindness to everyone. All these attributes were absent from the Home Office implementation of the "hostile environment". The most shocking revelation is how cold-hearted employees were simply doing their jobs by following these cruel policies. 19th century policies such as starvation (no job, no benefits, no health cover) and transportation (so-called repatriation) were used today. Police/Customs raids at dawn, homelessness and detention were common features of the truly unfortunate experiences of these British citizens. These policies had all the hallmarks of racism and fascism. With policies like these, the road to tyranny is only a few steps away for all of us.

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Outstanding

I can not recommend this book enough. Excellent journalistic work and well read. I didn't know anything about the Windrush scandal and it left me horrified that something like this could happen. It's the sort of thing you expect in America or some other country where racism is more overt. Or you expect this to be a story from some long-past era of British history, not in the last couple of years.
This book left me shook. To understand just how embedded racism is in Government systems and structures is stomach churning. I found this a really hard read and have had to change a lot of my views about how I imagine the experiences of black British people.
I listen to at least 50 books a year and this is without a doubt, the best book I've listened to in quite some time. Despite moving me to tears I couldn't stop listening. Finished this in two days.

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Brilliant investigative journalism at its best.

Amelia has managed to walk the fine line between very candid professional journalism and the raw emotions of the personal testimonies of the victims.
If you can read this and not be sad, angry or both, then you are, how shall I put it...interesting.

3 people found this helpful

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Nothing justifies the violation of human dignity!

This story should be in the news everyday until the victims of this betrayal are compensated. I found true and enviable skill in Gentlemen's writing, vivid and emotive, truly capturing the mindset of the victims. The narration is personal and truly mellifluous. It is a testament to the author and her hard work, dedication and absolute investment into the plight of these people. The resilience and tenacity she has demonstrated here is Saintly. I really enjoyed hearing about the (few) success stories, that were truly heartwarming.

I was tempted to remove a star for sections of the post-script, but could not detract praise from such a piece of important work.
This time could have been better spent telling you to go to the Windrush website and donate money to fund legal action and support the victims. Visit the Runnymead website for letter templates you can write to your MP to maintain pressure on the government to pay reparations and expedite bureaucratic processes. You don't throw water over an electrical fire to put it out, you take away its fuel and suffocate it!

I felt Gentlemen let herself down when entering into typical Guardian Asch-conformist, spurious, vitriolic, contradictory, diatribe that the UK is racist and anti-immigration. The Windrush scandal is a depiction of institutional racism and rightly emphasises the duty of society to challenge things and not descend into apathy. That does not mean that the whole country run around screaming "They took our jobs!" Maybe she should include herself in her description of the leaders at Whitehall; "Smart people come from too narrow a background", to understand the inflammatory nature of this prose, detracting the focus of her work. This is offensive and unhelpful.

Excellent on the whole though, incredible work.

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

Brilliant so well written clear thoughtful and passionate look at a very worrying gov dept and policy. Again people get away with this and still in influential positions. Great writer journalist !

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Outstanding journalism

This books content is unbelievable true that I almost had to pinch myself.

This outrageous behaviour by the then government is deplorable, it is incomprehensible that the government treated these people who had been the backbone of Britain like superfluous hair.

Amélia Gentlemen has more than proved herself in this great piece of investigative journalism, her passion for these people is palpable in the prose.

Thank you for writing this book, I hope that many will read or listen to it.

Two books mentions and quoted by the author are Black and British by David Olusoga and Small island by Andrea Levy. If you have not read them yet I thoroughly recommend them both.

1 person found this helpful