Posted by: billpurdue | October 31, 2014

John and George

Being a dog lover, a book with a photo of a dog on the cover is always bound to attract my attention. On this particular book, a mainly white Staffordshire Bull Terrier is staring straight at the camera with head cocked to one side in that endearing pose which dogs often adopt when listening to someone. The dog here is George and the book is “John and George, the dog who changed my life” by John Dolan.

JohnandGeorge

To tell the truth, I had read about the book and had already requested this book at the library, so I didn’t need a nice picture to persuade me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a very rewarding read.

John Dolan is a critically acclaimed artist, but a few years back, things were not like that at all. John had a happy childhood with mum and dad and brothers and sisters in East London – until age 10, when his father took him on one side to tell him that he and his ‘mum’ were actually his grandparents. Someone he had been calling his aunt was actually his mother. It was from that time onwards he began to go off the rails. His misdemeanors began with truancy, then glue sniffing and petty crime and there were spells of homelessness and spells in prison.

Then, when Dolan gave shelter to a homeless young couple with a dog, things began to change. The couple were offered a flat, but weren’t allowed to take the dog, so the dog, George, was offered to John. John and George began to form a bond and John realized that if he ever got involved in crime again, he might lose him, so that was the turning point.

John and George (photo from businesslife.ba.com

John and George (photo from businesslife.ba.com)

John had always been interested in drawing, right from childhood, when he used to copy pictures of comic book characters. To try to earn some cash, he decided to sit on the pavement on Shoreditch High Street, with George at his side, and begin drawing what he saw around him. It wasn’t long before people began to take notice of what he was doing and word got around. He found that passers-by wanted to buy his drawings for a few pounds. Then one day a gallery director, Richard Howard-Griffin, asked him if he would draw some large streetscapes for him. One thing led to another and eventually he was offered the chance of an exhibition at Howard-Griffin’s gallery.

Dolan’s book which is really an autobiography, tells about his upbringing, his family relationship, his drug habit and the rest. It’s a quick read, but a very worthwhile one: I found myself willing John Dolan all the success that he and George deserve.

For a detailed review, go to http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/19/john-dolan-homeless-addict-to-artist-and-author

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