Life’s A Banquet – A Memoir by Robin Bennett – a life lived honestly in so much detail

 

This is a memoir of great honesty, some passion and a lot of humour. Robin is a skilled and experienced writer, who writes a well paced and well constructed story of his life which is full of the challenges, mistakes and triumphs of a life well lived. Weaving present day observations and memories from early childhood together, this is the memoir of a man who has grown up in the private education system but not come from a reliably wealthy background. He has made, lost and made a lot of money, started businesses, got involved and pulled out of businesses. While his current life seems idyllic and well set up to allow him to follow hobbies and obsessions, his story reveals that he has had money worries when he had to take some difficult jobs, including on building sites where to potential for disaster was graphically revealed. I found some of the revelations about his family very touching, but also on occasion funny, especially his father’s eccentricity. He is honest about his relationships with women, from first confusion to marriage. The photographs of lovely children conceal difficulties that are so well described, and reveal how even wealth and opportunities do not always provide all the answers. A confident book, but one which deals with some of the problems encountered on the way, when valuable lessons needed to be learnt. I found this an intriguing and realistic book, and I was glad to have the opportunity to read and review a copy.

 

The Prologue is made up of a list of “helpful Life Tips” about the sort of attitudes and actions which Bennett believes will ease  his goddaughter’s way through life, which he has decided to share with readers. Positive, even loving relationships with people, and optimism are the key, as well as an attitude that problems may well well find their solutions in good time. The book opens properly with an account of Bennett’s father shooting a duck, and being abandoned on a small island while a headless duck was dealt with by his distracted father. He goes on to detail his family origins, full of the contradictions and minor conflicts of relationships . He lists three elements of the book: “1. How I got here, 2. Self – Knowledge,  3. Travel guide” . He revisits Reading, for the travel section, remembering 1971 and growing up there, even remembering the drain that marked the boundary of how far he could go as a small child. He has clear memories of his preparatory school and his later time at Downside Catholic school. He reveals that he wrote diaries and notes, as he discovered reading everything he could find calmed him down, and writing was a way of sorting out his thoughts. As he ploughs his way through school, and especially A Levels, he reveals flashes of brilliance and a lot of idleness. At university he alternates between academic efforts and financial plots, while recording his romantic liaisons. As he finishes at university, he describes his efforts to earn a living, sales training and experience, and how he loses out on big money deals. A true entrepreneur, he struggles to find the ideas and the capital that will mean he can continue with his ventures.

This is a transparently honest book which combines realistic observations on life, work, money and so much more. I recommend it as an engaging book which says much about life in London in the late twentieth century and up until the present day.   

 

It seems as if I have reviewed another Robin Bennett book on this blog – the other was the “Hairy Hand”, a sort of grim children’s book/ fantasy/ comedy which was excellent. If that is a sample of his writing for children, it is very lively, wonderfully attractive and an all round good read. A definite talent to watch!


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