Times of Our Lives by Michael Oke

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Times of Our Lives by Michael Oke

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Category: Crafts
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Karen Inskip-Hayward
Reviewed by Karen Inskip-Hayward
Summary: A useful tool to writing your life story, but with faults.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 327 Date: August 2004
Publisher: How To Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1857039702

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I am currently writing my autobiography as a long-term project and something to leave for my children, so I was interested to receive Times of Our Lives by Michael Oke, which is advertised as the essential companion for writing your own life story.

It is a beautifully presented book and a weighty tome of over 300 pages, so the cover price of £14.99 doesn't seem too bad. This is one of a series of 'how to' books and is more suitable to pick up and browse through relevant sections than sitting down and reading right through.

At the end of the book, there is a large section devoted to the major events from 1930 to 1979. This is presumably to jog a few memories or help you place a memory in a particular year. However, this covers a hundred pages of the book and in my opinion, seemed a bit of a waste of space. The internet is a wonderful tool for this kind of historical fact and for those who don't use a computer, the library has a large collection of reference books. Even if you do find this part of the book useful, each year only has two pages allotted to it, so does not offer much depth beyond a few bullet points of the year's headlines.

The main disadvantage to me of this book is that I am a bit young for it! The back cover does state it is mainly aimed at the over-fifties and inside, there are chapters covering your experience of things like the Second World War and National Service, so be aware of this if you are a younger writer.

There is something for everyone though, as the book also suggests inspirational ideas for writing about your childhood, your school years, relationships, family, work and so on. The chapters are well set out and organised logically, so you can easily find the section you want.

It is designed so you can work through a chapter, using it as a tool to produce your memories and thoughts in a logical order. Even if you just go through the book, jotting down your responses to the prompts, you will still end up with a valuable piece of writing. This can then be embellished and added to as much as you wish, to help you write your autobiography or a shorter piece if you wish.

In this respect, the book is very good. You can't help but think of the answers to the questions as you read through and it seems a shame not to write them down. In this way, you end up doing some of the writing without the big deal of facing that first blank page and not knowing how to start.

The book is peppered with case studies, so you can see what other people have produced. As well as giving the reader examples of what kind of things people might write, the extracts themselves might also prompt further memories from those reading the book. All the extracts are from ordinary people, each one proving that no matter how 'normal' we feel we are, each of us has led a unique life that is worth writing about.

While I found the book disappointing in one respect – the amount of information that was only relevant to someone older than I am – it is otherwise a valuable tool that could easily be used to spark memories and produce an interesting writing experience.

While reading through, I kept wishing my grandmother (who died in 2007 aged 100) had been inspired to write her life story and thought of another way this book could be used. You could take a tape recorder (or Dictaphone) round to your oldest relatives and read out some of the prompts in the book, to record their verbal memories. This would seem much less intimidating to an elderly relative who feels writing an autobiography is too daunting a task, but would still produce some great anecdotes and after all, it could always be typed up at a later date.

Overall, while this book has its faults, I generally felt it was useful, as well as being in an easily accessible format. Despite containing a lot of information, it presents this is a way which is not at all intimidating and is very likely to be inspirational and hopefully lead to lots of great writing to be left to pass down through the generations.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then we can also recommend A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves.

Buy Times of Our Lives by Michael Oke at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Times of Our Lives by Michael Oke at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Times of Our Lives by Michael Oke at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Times of Our Lives by Michael Oke at Amazon.com.

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