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.

8 thoughts on “A Prison Diary, by Jeffrey Archer

  1. Bumbles says:

    I really love reading reviews that tell me a book was awful, or boring, or not worth reading. They are so few and far between – everyone is always giving everything 4 out of 5 and telling me how awesome the book or author is. Sometimes the crummy reviews actually make me want to look into the book further just because I’m curious to see how bad it could really be. But usually they just give me a smile at the honesty shining through – and they are generally quite passionate which is always good for entertainment. Now, I of course feel bad for the author – but not so much in this case. I’m currently reading about someone wrongly convicted of a murder – I would categorize THAT as Hell – not less than a month for white collar crime.

    He did end up serving 2 years in 3 prisons. The other 2 books cover the other 2 prisons. I think there are so few bad reviews because most readers tend to stop reading a book if they don’t like it. I tend to tough it out.

  2. Michael says:

    I’ll agree with you that from the outset, it seems not to be particularly tragic. Sad that his mother died on the day he was convicted, true, but 22 days in British prison does not qualify as a punishment of epic proportions. Perhaps if he had been tortured while held in a prison for years without means to challenge the reasons for his detention, that would more suitably be called Hell.

    Totally agree with you.

  3. Peter says:

    Hi Stacy! I never knew that Jeffrey Archer went to prison. I have to agree with Michael that 22 days doesn’t seem like Hell, at least as compared with other prison sentences that go on for years!

    I forget where I saw this book mentioned in the last few months, but before that I wasn’t aware of his prison time either.

  4. Literary Feline says:

    I am sorry this one turned out to be so disappointing, Stacy. I imagine it would be a shocking experience for many of us if we were in his shoes and locked behind bars, but reading about it is an entirely different matter, especially when it’s rather uneventful and full of trivial details. This sort of book will appeal to some no doubt. Probably not me though. Great review, Stacy! Thank you.

    I am sure it would be shocking and difficult, but I wouldn’t expect everyone else to want to read about it 🙂

  5. Violet says:

    I have been wanting to read this book ever since I went for a signing by Archer.
    I didn’t know it was written for 22 days in prison. I think wirting memoirs is a fashion. Everybody is writing one. Thanks for your review, I’m in no mood to read 3 books.
    But only One? I would have considered borrowing from the library.

    The cds do not say that it is part 1 anywhere on them. It made me mad when I reached the end and it wasn’t an end at all!

  6. Margot @ Joyfully Retired says:

    I remember reading several Archer books and really liking them. Then there was a long period of no books at all. I had no idea of his legal troubles or knowledge of this book. He was/is a very good writer but perhaps he needs to go back to fiction. Thanks for an honest review.

    I haven’t read any of his books and this ‘diary’ would not discourage me from reading them someday.

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