A Very Private School

Charles Spencer author


Publisher:HarperCollins Publishers

Published:14th Mar '24


Available for immediate dispatch.

A Very Private School cover

The #1 Sunday Times Bestselling Memoir


'Shocking and moving' Guardian

'A tour-de-force' Washington Post

At eight years of age, Charles Spencer was sent away to one of England’s most exclusive boarding schools.

In this courageous and beautifully written memoir, Spencer offers a clear-eyed, first-hand account of the strange secrets of the school, and the culture of cruelty and abuse he witnessed and experienced in his five years there as a pupil.

Drawing on the memories of many of his schoolboy contemporaries, as well as his own letters and diaries from the time, the book is his attempt to come to terms with the deep emotional scars inflicted upon him. Spencer reflects on the misery, hopelessness and abandonment he felt aged eight, viscerally describing the intense pain of homesickness, the vicious brutality of a boys’ school in the 1970s and the appalling inescapability of it all.

The book cracks the code of the unpoliced regime that ran the place and provides important insights into an antiquated boarding school system. He gives vivid portraits of the teachers and other staff placed in loco parentis, their casual cruelties and toxic obsessions. All these years later, Spencer’s bafflement at their motivations to inflict such cruelty on young children is palpable. As is his fury that, even if somehow he had spoken up, he’d never have been believed.

Charles Spencer's book 'A Very Private School' was a Sunday Times bestseller w/c 11-03-2024.

'Top marks for its searing frankness, framed in wistfully beautiful prose’

The Times

‘Spencer is acutely observant of the myriad power imbalances at play within this imperial throwback. There has been a steady stream of books about boarding schools in recent years… but two things mark Spencer out from the crowd. First, he is by title and birth the ultimate establishment man, but he’s still prepared to take on the shibboleths of his class and upbringing. Second, his turn of phrase is often delightful. A painstaking and traumatic process, but one for which any reader must surely give a cheer'

Daily Telegraph

‘Moving… A heartbreaking memoir of a childhood endured at a boarding school ‘without love’, where abuse was shockingly commonplace’

Financial Times

‘This is a story with a clear remit: to confront the British school system with the abuses it has long enabled. There are many graphic details in this book but the allegations have the most impact when read here as a grander narrative about power and how it is abused. As an individual testimony to the abuse that scarred a lifetime and hobbled his marriages, it is a tour de force'

Washington Post

‘Moving and beautifully written, what Spencer’s courageous book reveals will be horribly familiar to the thousands of us who endured the same vile abuse in dozens of schools that were clones of each other. Most of us will go to our graves with the wounds unhealed'

Louis de Bernieres

'This is a powerful, unforgettable story of childhood trauma, and the dark secrets and savagery of the past, told with a searing honesty and clarity that is ultimately redemptive'

Justine Picardie

ISBN: 9780008666088

Dimensions: 240mm x 159mm x 30mm

Weight: 500g

304 pages