A Prison Diary, by Jeffrey Archer

Cover ImageFinished audio 8-28-09, rating 2.5/5, non-fiction, pub. 2002

Jeffrey Archer was 29 when he became a member of British Parliament.  After a bad investment and on the brink on bankruptcy he quit Parliament and started writing.  After a string of bestsellers, he enters politics again as a candidate for the mayor of London.  He was forced to pull out of the race when he was accused and convicted of perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.  He was sentenced to four years.  This is all the backstory to this book.

Jeffery was convicted the day that his mother died.  He found solace in knowing that she passed away before she knew he had been found guilty and sentenced to jail.  He spent 22 days in the high security prison of Belmarsh where he was housed with all sorts of convicts from murderers to druggies.  He wrote this diary every day by hand on yellow legal pads from his small cell.

I listened to this on audio and it wasn’t until I was done and looked on Archer’s website that I realized this was Part I:Hell.  There are two more parts, Purgatory and Heaven where he chronicles the rest of his two years behind bars.  I will not be reading either of those.  It is not because he is a person who does not summon sympathy (although he doesn’t), it is because this book was boring.  And if part one is called Hell and is boring, well, how much more monotonous can parts two and three be?  It claimed to be ‘shocking’ and he said repeatedly that people would be blown away.  I wasn’t shocked or even really that interested to learn that he had Coco Puffs for breakfast, but preferred Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.

This is a British prison so I may have felt too removed from it to appreciate it.  And maybe in the context of the British prison system this seemed excessively bad, but I didn’t get it.   And Archer was only there 22 days!  I guess I wondered how sheltered his life had been if his new surroundings shocked him.  I mean it is prison after all.

It was well written and a had a few interesting things to say, but on the whole I was obviously disappointed.