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  • Published: 26 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9781473593312
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 288

Sad Little Men

Private Schools and the Ruin of England




A passionate, personal book by a prize-winning memoir writer about boarding schools, the damage they do, and power in this country

'The most important book I've read this year...the writing is magnetic' Adam Rutherford

In 1975, as a child, Richard Beard was sent away from his home to sleep in a dormitory. So were David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

In those days a private boys' boarding school education was largely the same experience as it had been for generations: a training for the challenges of Empire. He didn't enjoy it. But the first and most important lesson was to not let that show.

Being separated from the people who love you is traumatic. How did that feel at the time, and what sort of adult does it mould?

This is a story about England, and a portrait of a type of boy, trained to lead, who becomes a certain type of man. As clearly as an X-ray, it reveals the make-up of those who seek power - what makes them tick, and why.

Sad Little Men addresses debates about privilege head-on; clearly and unforgettably, it shows the problem with putting a succession of men from boarding schools into positions of influence, including 10 Downing Street. Is this who we want in charge, especially at a time of crisis?

It is a passionate, tender reckoning - with one individual's past, but also with a national bad habit.

'Insanely readable and enjoyable' - TOM HOLLAND, author of Dominion

  • Published: 26 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9781473593312
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 288

About the author

Richard Beard

Richard Beard is the author of Acts of the Assassins which was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize and most recently, The Day That Went Missing. In the twenty years since his first book he has published critically acclaimed novels and narrative non-fiction, including Becoming Drusilla, the story of how a friendship between two men was changed by a gender transition. He was formerly director of the National Academy of Writing in London, and is now a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo and has a Creative Writing Fellowship at the University of East Anglia. He is an optimistic opening batsman for the Authors Cricket Club.

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Praise for Sad Little Men

If you want to understand the aura of entitlement and untouchability shrouding our governing class, look no further than Beard's witty, unsparingly sharp and deeply moving anatomy of the emotional culture of England's boarding schools

Josh Cohen

Engaging and readable, powerful and cogent. A vivid portrait of the political elite exposed for the vulnerable men/ children they are

Joy Schaverien, author of Boarding School Syndrome

A sensitive and incisive analysis of the British class system has no right to be as insanely readable and enjoyable as this book manages to be

Tom Holland, author of Dominion

Utterly compelling, top proper stuff. I loved it to bits. The energy of it! I really felt for them (all) by the end

Ian Marchant, Author of A Hero for High Times

A breathtaking personal account of the disastrous British habit of abandoning our most privileged children to institutionalisation. Beard captures all the nuances and subtleties of how the process undermines the boarder and its lasting legacy through into late adulthood. Should be compulsory reading for parents considering what is still thought to be the best choice for their offspring, while it perverts our leadership at home and abroad

Nick Duffell, author of The Making of Them

Deft, sharp and utterly lucid. And its argument directly addresses not only who governs England, but how they do it. The boyish nonchalance and considerable charm of politicians and prime ministers suddenly emerge as sinister, irresponsible and corrupt. Beard wears his erudition lightly, but this is a very emotional, moving book. His conclusions are devastating.

Patricia Duncker

Richard Beard has dug a very sharp knife into the tenderest of sensibilities and his book is a painful reminder that our public school system damages not only the small children entrusted to its care, but our entire country, without compassion, every single day

Sophie Ward, author of Love and Other Thought Experiments

Really good, clever, dazzling in its anger and the force of its argument

Nicola Shulman, Times Literary Supplement

Richard Beard has dug a very sharp knife into the tenderest of sensibilities and his book is a painful reminder that our public school system damages not only the small children entrusted to its care, but our entire country, without compassion, every single day

Sophie Ward, author of Love and Other Thought Experiments

One of the finest polemics I have ever come across. It is a passionate, well-argued case against a system by which a pool of less that 5 per cent of the population have a disproportionate influence over every significant aspect of our lives... Sad Little Men has been an eye-opener

Nicholas Lezard, Spectator

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