Sunday, July 30, 2006

The case of Jonathan Aitken, British Cabinet Minister, convicted perjurer, jailbird, but now reformed character and author

Being highly sceptical by nature, and merely on the basis of media reports, I have had reservations about the reformation of Jonathan Aitken. But I should have read one of his books earlier. As it is the summer holiday, I have finally got around to reading the second volume of his autobiography, Porridge and Passion, which starts with the drama surrounding his sentencing at The Old Bailey and covers his experiences at three of Britain's high security prisons, his post-release depression and the rebuilding of his life through his studies, his re-marriage and his new career as writer, speaker, broadcaster and volunteer social worker specially in the field of the rehabilitation of released prisoners.

The book is by turns disturbing, frightening, funny and poignant. Aitken has the ability to focus on an aspect of life and recreate it, as well as the ability to apply his considerable intellectual and human skills to major social challenges such as prison reform (one of his new passions).

Some people will continue to have reservations about his reformation. I must here declare that I now have none: (1) he acknowledges his fault simply and clearly (though I would have liked greater insight into why he lied under oath in court, I am not sure that we humans really understand our motivations very well); (2) he has paid the price that society required of him; and (3) he has gone about paying his debt to God and to his family with simplicity and (as far as I can work out) with consistency. His new life seems entirely admirable.

If you are looking for an inspiring gift for someone, or simply for your next book to read, I warmly recommend Porridge and Passion (Continuum Books, 2005, ISBN: 0-8264-7630-9 or paperback 0-8264-8068-3).

I am myself looking forward to reading his other books. Sphere: Related Content

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