Harry’s Last Stand

Saturday 21 June 2014 by

Harry's Last Stand, Harry Leslie Smith,  Icon Books, BookA Month of Non-Fiction

Harry’s Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It
by Harry Leslie Smith

I have read a couple of Harry Leslie Smith’s fiction novels and have always enjoyed the characters he creates and though the title of this political non-fiction book put me off slightly (a little long), I am very interested in the perspective of a nonagenarian on the state of things at present.

I didn’t know Harry Leslie Smith had become famous for the Guardian article This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time although I do remember the furore around it and this book seems to expand upon the points Smith made in this article and give them further context.

If the premise wasn’t clear for this book in the title (which it probably is) here’s a further summary:

In November 2013, 91-year-old Yorkshireman, RAF veteran and ex-carpet salesman Harry Leslie Smith’s Guardian article – ‘This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time’ – was shared almost 60,000 times on Facebook and started a huge debate about the state of society.

Now he brings his unique perspective to bear on NHS cutbacks, benefits policy, political corruption, food poverty, the cost of education – and much more. From the deprivation of 1930s Barnsley and the terror of war to the creation of our welfare state, Harry has experienced how a great civilisation can rise from the rubble. But at the end of his life, he fears how easily it is being eroded.

Harry’s Last Stand is a lyrical, searing modern invective that shows what the past can teach us, and how the future is ours for the taking.

The wonderful thing about Smith’s book is that rather than just posing endless questions and showing us exactly what is wrong with the world he suggests solutions. Though I don’t agree with all that is said many of Smith’s solutions seem much more believable and viable than those suggested by the people currently in power in this country.

Smith’s proposals and political views are made even stronger through their mixture within the story of his upbringing. The people he’s lost and how things have (or haven’t) changed since he was younger. It’s a shocking indictment of modern Britain that a 91 year old can feel like elements of society are as bad if not worse than more than 80 years ago.

Another powerful element of Smith’s work is the hope that is still present. It would be very easy to reach his age and simply think that was that and this is how it’s always going to be but he doesn’t. In his solutions there is hope that things can be better and that it’s up to future generations to take their turn at improving what we’ve been given.

The way Smith writes is something I already admired but I have a greater enjoyment of his eloquence and powerful way with words than before. This is a book that I think more people should read so further, intelligent discussion can be had, especially in the wake of recent elections and those soon to come in 2015.

Rating, Four, Review

 

 

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