September Books 2) Stalin Ate My Homework, by Alexei Sayle

I don’t think I’d read anything by Sayle before; I remember him from the 1980s as the landlord in The Young Ones and also memorably playing a radio disc-jockey in a funeral home which turns out to be run by Daleks, but I’m not sure I was even all that familiar with his standup routines. In this book he recounts the story of his childhood and adolescence as the sole offspring of two Communist Party activists in Liverpool, the standard stories of growing up as a smart kid in a tough-ish neighbourhood interspersed with trips to Hungary and Czechoslovakia where they were feted by cabinet ministers. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments, but mostly it is a wryly affectionate account, vividly depicting the strengths and weaknesses of each of the family members.

Of course, for those in their 20s and below, the idea of people actually dedicating themselves to a revolution to bring about Communism and rule from Moscow in Liverpool must seem vanishingly farfetched. (Sayle as a dissident teenager later attached himself to the followers of Mao and Enver Hoxha.) It’s a fascinating reminder of a part of the political landscape which has been utterly (and, to be honest, rightly) buried by history.