Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James

Published August 5, 2020

Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James

Book info

  • Title Unreliable Memoirs
  • Author Clive James
  • Year 1980
  • Genres Memoirs, Humour

In the first instalment of Clive James's memoirs we follow the young Clive on his journey from boyhood to the cusp of manhood, when his days of wearing short trousers are finally behind him. Battling with school, girls, various relatives and an overwhelming desire to be a superhero, Clive's adventures growing up in the suburbs of post-war Sydney are hair-raising, uproarious and almost too good to be true...


Clive James is a bit of an institution, a national treasure of both Australia and the UK, and it was with sadness that I saw he had passed away last year. This is the first of his series of memoirs, chronicling his early years in Australia, and the vast variety of scrapes he got into.

I was surprised, actually, at what a scamp he was. From such an early age, causing his mother no end of grief with injuries and chaos, it was fun to read them from a distance but quite awful to think about having to deal with him in the situation.

The stories move on to school and college, very frank and open about his romantic experiences with both men and women, and also talking about his time doing national service, which was a surprise to me. Finally, he leaves the country for pastures new and that’s where the book ends, on the shores of England. I can’t wait to read the next one. James writes with such clear, concise humour, an honesty that slices through everything and gets to the heart of the matter, with a lot of self-analysis from the benefit of hindsight. Each sentence is perfectly crafted, to the point I had to resort to a dictionary on occasion for words I’ve not come across before. Beautiful.

Rating: 5 / 5

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