An enthusiastic, upbeat memoir of the childhood, adolescence and twenties of journalist Hunter Davies. I hadn’t read any of his work before, but I’d heard of him as the official Beatles biographer and had read some work by his late wife Margaret Forster.
I think that the title and cover design of this book suggest it’s a rather cosy nostalgic read. There are elements of this but it’s also unexpectedly revealing about certain intimate topics and considers how life in Britain today is better in many ways than it was 70 years ago.
For readers not in Britain, the Co-Op referred to in the title is a grocery shop, part of a consumer co-operative group with a long history.
This book follows Hunter’s life from his earliest years in Johnstone and Dumfries (Scotland), to growing up in Carlisle (England), university at Durham and his fledgling journalism career in Manchester and London. A memoir focusing on the late 40s and 1950s, it ends in 1960, the year of Hunter’s marriage to Margaret. Although the style is not always amazingly well-written, it has a charm and is sometimes humorous. I tended to skim-read anything to do with football and some of the academic bits but mainly the content was interesting, especially the experiences of working for the newspapers, as journalism is quite different now with the rise of online news. He is clearly proud of being one of the very few working-class people to attend university in those days and often exclaims how lucky he was to have had opportunities in his education and career. His family life was tough and it was certainly a difficult time for his mother, who had four children, little income, no modern conveniences and a bedbound husband.
The praise for this book suggests that it’s particularly suited to people of the same generation as Hunter – my grandparents’ generation – but anyone who likes to read postwar memoirs should find it of interest.
First published in 2016.