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A Bit Of A Stretch

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  75 ratings  ·  58 reviews
A shocking and darkly funny account of the reality of Britain's prisons.

Where can a tin of tuna buy you clean clothes? Which British education system struggles with 50% illiteracy? Where do teetotal Muslims attend AA meetings? Where is it easier to get 'spice' than paracetamol? Where does self-harm barely raise an eyebrow?

Welcome to Her Majesty's Prison Service, a
Expected publication: February 6th 2020
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
4 fascinating stars

A Bit of a Stretch is a brutally honest and horrifying account of the author's time spent in one of the worst prisons in the UK.Chris Atkins was sentenced to 5 years in prison for tax evasion and kept a diary during his time in Wandsworth prison. Initially I had mixed feelings about reading a book written by a convict, but in the end my curiosity got the better of me. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. Atkins is very open about his crime and admits he broke the law and
Louise Wilson
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Chris Atkins was sentenced to five years for fraud. He tells us about the time he spent in Wandsworth prison in detail. We learn of the monotony of living behind bars. Chris Atkins is a journalist and documentary maker. He decided to keep a diary whilst inside. This is an interesting, eye opening and informative read. If you like true crime you will really e joy this book.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Atlantic Books and the author Chris Atkins for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Nov 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Hum... I have mixed views on this. In parts very interesting though. Full review nearer publication.
Angela Groom
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Chris Atkins is a film maker, with a young son who gets mixed up in a tax avoidance scheme and ends up being sentenced to five years in prison in 2016. A bit of a stretch was informative, insightful and deeply moving.
The prison he is sent to is Wandsworth and definitely is not the holiday camp vibe you often read about and hear in the media.
He keeps diaries throughout his sentence and it proves to be a fantastic read.
Absolutely gripping book that has you so frustrated at times, on the verge
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 2016, documentary filmmaker Chris Atkins was sentenced to five years in prison for being part of an illegal tax scheme to help fund one of his films. This is his diary of his time in Wandsworth Prison, and it’s a real eye-opener. No matter what your attitude towards crime and punishment, the way Wandsworth and many other prisons are being mismanaged is clearly an ineffective waste of public money, as well as being dehumanising to both the prisoners and the staff, and promoting an environment ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Time taken to read - 2 days (in and out)

Publisher - Atlantic books

Source - Netgalley

Blurb from Goodreads

A shocking and darkly funny account of the reality of Britain's prisons.

Where can a tin of tuna buy you clean clothes? Which British education system struggles with 50% illiteracy? Where do teetotal Muslims attend AA meetings? Where is it easier to get 'spice' than paracetamol? Where does self-harm barely raise an eyebrow?

Welcome to Her Majesty's Prison Service, a creaking and surreal world
Nov 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book is about Chris Atkins a journalist and documentary filmmaker. In 2016 he was sentenced to 5 years in prison. The prison in question being Wandsworth. His crime being fraudulent tax avoidance scheme.

We meet some very likeable characters some of whom help him settle into the hard stretched prison system. This book bursts the bubble that prisons are like holiday camps as we go through his day to day struggle to get his glasses repaired and for other prisoners to just be given some
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you to NetGalley and Atlantic Books*

This is a raw and eye opening account of Chris Atkins’ experience inside HMP Wandsworth, for his crime of tax fraud. It offers a rare, all access insight into what it’s really like in one of the most dangerous prisons in Britain. From dodgy inmates to equally dodgy prison officers (or ‘screws’ as they are called inside), to the lack of reformation and squalid conditions, Chris offers his
Dec 29, 2019 rated it liked it
An enjoyable read which described Chris's short sentence throughout the UK prison service. The reader gets to see what life inside the prison walls can be like for people who aren't seen as you standard prisoner. The reader also gets to see just how bad the prison system is and how it is clearly not fit for purpose. A good read if a little bit repetitive at times.
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
A brutally honest and horrific look at what our prisons are really like. This book does not make for easy reading and although I agree prisoner’s should be punished the stories about practises within the prison walls are shocking. There are so many things in this book that if they just put a few of the suggestions properly Into practice they could make positive changes not just to the prisoners but also all of the staff who work there. The fact so many criminals reoffend is proof enough that ...more
Alyssia Cooke
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, nonfiction
If anyone still believes the bloody nonsense that prison is time spent in a Pontins holiday camp, then think again. Chris Atkins is more than aware that his education, literacy, class and race set him apart from the majority of the prison population, but that makes this even more upsetting. The vast majority of the prisoners in HMP Wandsworth struggle to pass a basic literacy test and so certainly couldn't publish their prison memoirs. And despite the apparent focus on rehabilitation and ...more
Caroline Kerdouci
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Presumably a much sanitised version of life behind bars, A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins makes compelling reading. Written in an anecdotal style the narrative draws on the author’s spell in the notorious Wandsworth prison.
I imagine as a white,educated,fairly privileged man convicted of a white collar crime,his initiation into this new ‘lifestyle’ must have been absolutely terrifying yet he writes with a lighthearted touch proving that humour can always be found in the most dire of
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Just like every other service in the UK, the prisons are up shit creek without a paddle. Too much to do and not enough money to do it. Everything is stretched to breaking point and the more you find out about how things are 'run', the more you realise it's pretty bloody stunning that the whole thing hasn't fallen disastrously apart already. Of course, the number of people dying or being seriously injured in prisons each year, both cons and officers alike, might suggest it's there or thereabouts, ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
TW: discussion of substance use, self-harm, suicide

Firstly i'd like to say a big thank you to NetGalley and Atlantic Books for allowing me to read this eARC. All views and opinions discussed here are my own.

I was really intrigued by the premise of this book, especially after reading The Prison Doctor, and really enjoying it. I hadn't seen many other books that were actually from a prisoners perspective and so thought this would be a really intriguing story. I wasn't wrong at all.

This was a
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Bit Of A Stretch follows Chris Atkins' 9 months in Wandsworth prison, which leads to the big question about this kind of biography, is he guilty? Well, it's not a spoiler to say yes, he is. And I think he adopts a tone that most people will find reasonable - he's not proud of his crime, but he doesn't shirk away from it either. Based on the details I'd say most people would feel pretty aggrieved to be in his shoes - certainly, I've read other biographies where people find it far harder to ...more
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a well written informative book about the author serving his jail sentence in Wandsworth prison. Wandsworth prison is well known for being one of the oldest and largest prisons in Europe. The story he tells about his time there is both horrifying and amusing. During austerity years the Prison Service clearly took a hit. It clearly has never been the focus of any government and the last decade has brought it into crisis..

The author tells his story. From the passing of his sentence until
Tracy Wood
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, netgalley-2020
This is both entertaining and scary because I have no doubt that, with a little artistic licence, this is an accurate portrayal of our prison system in the 21st century. Chris Atkins doesn't pull any punches but does admit that, as a white, well educated, middle class Englishman, he had definite advantages right from the start of his incarceration and others experience far worse conditions than he did.

He could however, have sat back, merged into the 'white collar crew', served his time and left,
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Chris Atkins, a former film producer, including making films for Dispatches ( Ch4 ) is sentenced to 5 years for ( in simple terms ) a money/tax fraud, that although he didn’t benefit from personally his company did and he was ‘aware’ of, he freely admits his crime and punishment

The book, is in diary form,pre trial, trial and the bulk of about his time in Wandsworth Prison, what he see’s, hears, experiences and his many feelings about it all but this is no self pity party, quite the
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Chris Atkins’ A Bit of A Stretch was always going to be up my street. Told by Chris Atkins, the documentary maker who actually did go to prison (not undercover, as I first thought, but was actually convicted of a crime) for tax fraud, the book is part-memoir, part damning exposé on the frankly shocking state of the justice system. And though you might not think it, it’s also very darkly funny.
The book details Atkins’ time at HMP Wandsworth, perhaps the most notorious of prison jails. And it’s
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Chris Atkins is a middle class film-maker with a young son when he becomes mixed up in a tax-avoidance scheme and ends up being sentenced to five years in prison. "A Bit of a Stretch" is based on the diaries he kept during his time at Wandsworth, and makes for shocking, informative and discomforting read.

I couldn't put this book down, it was absolutely gripping. Other than the odd prison-based TV show, I haven't given much thought to life on the inside, and probably would have considered myself
Deborah Dare
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
An insightful view into life as a prison inmate at HMP Wandsworth. Chris Atkins is incarcerated for his involvement in a dodgy financial scheme to fund his next film production.

He tells of the trials he personally encounters on entering jail from running out of toilet paper to the difficulties he has with his solicitor (who doesn’t seem to want to know now that he’s not making money from him). He uses his time to become involved as a Listener (part of the in-prison Samaritan service) and
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read
This is an account provided by Film maker, Chris Atkins who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for fraud offences. The book mainly follows the 9 months he spent in HMP Wandsworth.

This is a compelling read. Aside from the authors own experience, it is clearly well researched with lots of references to research papers and various reports. In many ways it's a difficult read. Prison was clearly not an easy ride - it covers issues of self harm, suicide, violence, mental illness, abuse of
Chantiece Bates
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As soon as I started this book I was intrigued. Firstly, it was interesting to see how someone who is not the stereotypical prisoner would navigate prison life and secondly it was absolutely compelling to learn more about prisons. I had not realized many of the facts that are spoken about in this book, and in fact was more on the prison is too fun team. This book gives you some harsh realities about those who are in prison and the difficulties they are going through. I fully expect this book to ...more
Hazel Katherine
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Chris Atkins's 'A Bit of A Stretch' is an account of his two and a half years in prison, and it's a compelling read (I read it in one sitting). Acknowledging his privilege right off the bat, Chris brings us through his experiences of the British judicial and prison systems with a sense of humour, and a gift for insightful observation and empathy that he clearly honed during his years working in film.

Managing to strike a balance between pathos and humour (I actually laughed out loud several
Dec 11, 2019 rated it liked it
A funny, poignant and yet insightful and relevant!

A brilliant and honest tale giving you a real insight into the time the author spent 9 months of his sentence at Wandsworth Prison.

Chris Atkins writes with brutal honesty, the good, the bad and the real ugly of what really goes on behind closed prison gates and cell doors.

This book shows the other side of the story, not the cushy tale of prisoners lazing around playing xbox's but the harsh reality of overcrowding, understaffing and politics gone
Brian Hamilton
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A quick but interesting read. The author, rather self-effacingly, admits that, as an affluent, well educated, white, liberal man, his experience of the British prison system was perhaps not as typical as might be expected. However, despite this, Atkins is a keen observer of the upsetting, the surreal and the darkly amusing. He manages to find humanity and humour in the most dreadful of encounters all the while excoriating the current prison system, which has clearly gone off a cliff in recent ...more
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Chris Atkins was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. He's not the stereotypical prisoner we're used to hearing about – he doesn't do drugs, in fact he doesn't even smoke, he's middle class and got a degree at Oxford – and as a way of coping with prison life he writes down a little about each day.

His diary of life inside Wandsworth is both fascinating and horrifying and makes for compelling reading. There are ways of climbing the hierarchy system and being an educated
Engrossed Reader
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
A Bit Of A Stretch was informative, insightful and oddly entertaining. The latter sits a tad uncomfortably, given the subject matter and the humorous moments. Indeed as does, entire conversations and motivations of other prisoners. However if it's an accurate reflection and recollection of what occurred then I can see why it's been included in this way.

What stood out for me in particular was how prison mirrored life on the outside and how you were immediately disadvantaged by your race, social
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bit of a stretch

An eye- opening dive into prison life from the point of view of an educated and mentally resilient individual who has the capability to just about stay afloat in such a deeply flawed and threatening environment. Being educated, mentally healthy and attracting the interest of others of a similar ilk gives him some protection -and yet the experience Chris Atkins relates is horrifying even at this level. Unimaginably worse for those without his background advantages. It is a
Andrea Hicks
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you to Chris Atkins, Atlantic Books and Net Galley for the ARC of A Bit of Stretch.
To say I enjoyed this would probably be a strange admission, but this was a glimpse into a world most of us don't experience. It is a kind of mash-up of Porridge and The Shawshank Redemption, very funny in some places and utterly shocking in others. Chris Atkins has documented his stay in Wandswoth Prison at Her Majesty's pleasure and his experiences prove that those who have the control are still getting
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