Coming of Age by Danny Ryan

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Coming of Age by Danny Ryan

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Laugh out loud memoir of a youth trying to make it big in music and an adulthood in dysfunctional public service. Full of wonderful, detailed observation.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 252 Date: April 2019
Publisher: Biddles Books
ISBN: 978-1912804931

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He began writing novels and poetry at the age of twelve, but it was to take him a further forty-eight years to realise that he wasn’t very good at either. Consistently unpublished for all that time, he remains a shining example of hope over experience...

This a memoir from someone you have never heard of - but will feel like you have.

We open with a significant birthday - or, rather, an unwelcome significant birthday - a sixtieth. What does reaching sixty even mean though? You're not elderly yet but you've probably passed middle age. Either way, you're definitely no longer young. Our protagonist reaches this milestone as he takes stock of both a present, as a public servant in a neoliberal, outsourcing-happy, buzzword-replete public service, and a past, in a pop band so ridiculously maladaptive that it makes the local authority's latest consultants look sensible. The consultants, by the way, are called Independent Social Integration Strategists. You can acronym that for yourselves!

As things get more unbearable at Seadog House - the consultants are the least of it - and a lingering cough gets more and more irritating and persistent, our protagonist looks back over his 1960s Catholic education and a 1970s spent trying to make it big in the music business. The band went on Opportunity Knocks and behind the Iron Curtain but Shirley Bassey never got around to listening to its songs. I'm disappointed in you, Miss Bassey. Anyway. I won't tell you too much because it's such a treat to read sans preconceptions.

I did enjoy this laconic memoir. It's laugh-out-loud funny without ever overdoing it and full of detailed, accurate, observation. And, as a woman of years not so far away from our protagonist's, I hope I can make jokes this good when I arrive at the fateful sixtieth birthday. It has hilarious larks and adventures, some good old-fashioned row, an hilariously misspent youth and an underlying weariness at the way things have turned out. I loved the healthy distaste for overweening bureaucracy accompanied by a resentment at the degradation of public services, and the occasional, if accidental triumphs (Alice-themed dad dancing er... self expression, I'm looking at you). And I loved the nods to my own youth: the band may not have found lasting fame at Camber Sands holiday park but I had some bloody good holidays there. Don't tell anyone: it dates me!

I think you'd enjoy Coming of Age. I surely did.

If memoirs are your thing, you might also enjoy Greetings From Bury Park by Sarfraz Manzoor, if only for the Bruce Springsteen references. And, from a public service point of view, there's Confessions of a Recovering MP by Nick de Bois - from an entirely different political perspective, I suspect.

You can read more about Danny Ryan here.

Buy Coming of Age by Danny Ryan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Coming of Age by Danny Ryan at

Buy Coming of Age by Danny Ryan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Coming of Age by Danny Ryan at


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