Review published on March 4, 2017.
Think of the great literary biographies and you think of the icons of history: Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Anne Frank. You don’t necessarily think of Peter Heritage, of Ashford, unless you’re his brother Stuart, whose book, Don’t Be a Dick, Pete, is his tribute – or perhaps that should be his anti-tribute – to his younger brother. And why the devil not? There are enough ‘celebrity’ biographies doing the rounds that it’s nice to have something a bit different to read. And this biography is certainly different. It tells the story of two ordinary brothers who are as similar as chalk and cheese. The two, it is clearly proclaimed, would not be friends if they weren’t brothers. But they are brothers, so their relationship isn’t easy to avoid and, across their three decades of life, it has made for some memorable episodes, which Stuart recounts, often at Pete’s expense, in this mock biography with all of the raillery and badinage that is only possible between brothers. It is hardly a flattering sibling portrait, but it is also perhaps the most flattering of sibling portraits too, after all, who else can say their sibling has written their biography (albeit with a less than flattering title)? But there is a jocular, teasing spirit to the whole book that ensures it is taken as it is meant, with tongue firmly in cheek. And as much as these brothers may not be on the same page, the fact that Stuart has written a book about his brother, and equally that Pete has allowed Stuart to write this particular book, speaks volumes. Though the book steers largely clear of any soppy, sentimental offerings, what is lovely is that the fraternal bond is clear to see, as much as they try to ignore or even oppose it. At one point, Stuart writes: ‘whether I like it or not, the relationship I have with Pete will be the longest of my life. Friends come and go. Parents get old and die. If I live to be ninety, I’ll have a maximum of sixty years with my wife, and a maximum of fifty-five with my son. But with Pete? A full eighty-seven? We’re both in this mess together, all the way to the end.’ It’s an eye-opening thought and one that reinforces the book’s resounding message that despite their differences, they are brothers for life, for better or worse. Overall the book is a fun, witty, boisterous look at what it means to be a brother, to share that history and to make memories. And it’s a nice break from the ‘traditional’ biographic fare, although I suspect its greatest appeal will be, naturally, for brothers.
Jade Craddock 4/-
Don’t Be a Dick, Pete by Stuart Heritage
Square Peg 9781910931479 pbk May 2017
The Prose Factory: Literary Life in Britain Since 1918 by D.J. Taylor
Spymaster: The Life of Britain’s Most Decorated Cold War Spy and Head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield by Martin Pearce
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