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!

The Hairy Hand by Robin Bennett – A Children’s book which will entertain all

This is a fantastic children’s book; with shades of magic, extravagant images and undoubted excitement. Funny and exciting, this is a book for children and young people who read well, are not easily shocked, and willing to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy a new perspective on life. A central theme is the relationship between parents and their child, exaggerated for effect, and well written in a very funny way. There is a journey with a quest, amazing discoveries, and an exciting climax. Taking the best of tales of magic and ridiculously bad circumstances, this tale of a child trying to make his life better is an involving read, and I enjoyed it greatly. I am happy to review a copy for the blog tour.

Septimus Plog  lives in a terrible village called Nowhere with his parents, extremely bad thief  Plog the Sneaker, and scary Gertrude Plog. Sept is most unlike his parents, being thoughtful and able to read. Having read all the books he can find, his favourite remains “How to be Happy”, with its messages such as “Think Positive”. After a particularly troublesome incident, Sept is sent to his late Uncle’s house to pay his respects and return with some treasure. He endures a terrifying journey, is baffled by his discoveries at the house, yet returns with the Hairy Hand, who seems to be set to change not only his life, but the lives of his parents and the locals. There are many perils to face for Sept as he tries to do his best for all, and the fantasy expands like much else in this book. Outrageous humour abounds on many levels; this is the best sort of children’s book when the story appeals to adults as sly satire and dark comedy.

This book kept me turning the pages with genuine enjoyment as soon as I got into the rhythm of a book which reminded me of Dahl in its exaggerated pictures of people and their motives. Not horror, but horrible, this represents children’s fantasies of riches and parties, evil plans and frightening tales, all within a complete fantasy world. I can imagine that this is safe reading for children as it is so far out their everyday experience that they know it is make believe rather than on the edge of real life. I would recommend it to children in this well presented format with some suitable line drawings and plenty of room for the imagination.

This is one of the rare occasions that I have read and reviewed a children’s book, but after buying books for my own offspring and teaching for about ten years, I think I have a reasonable idea what might entertain! I recently enjoyed a book shopping trip with a friend for her two daughters. Waterstones in Newcastle has some super books. We ranged from “Goodnight For Rebel  Girls” through to “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and also the Paddington collection. Many hours of happy reading to come, I hope!