Reviews

Book Review: Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

 

Not My Father's Son Review

I was sent a copy of Not My Father’s Son: A Family Memoir by Alan Cumming, for review because it’s recently been released in paperback. I remember reading an interview with Cumming when the hardback edition was first released, and thinking how much I’d love to read it.

Although I usually post a book review each Monday on this blog, I often struggle to finish reading a book in time to post my review. I started reading this on Monday afternoon as I caught the train to London, thinking with the train that evening and then another train journey later in the week, I might get it finished in good time. As it was, I needn’t have worried. I was engrossed within the first couple of pages, and couldn’t put it down – I even read it on the Tube, standing up (I usually spend my Tube journeys staring at the tube map and reciting the station names I need to change at).

This is not a typical celebrity autobiography. You know, the ones where they come from humbe beginnings but fight against adversity to reach the dizzying heights of a Christmas book deal where they drop names left, right and centre. I don’t recall one celebrity name drop all the way through this book; it’s about Cumming’s family, and his life outside his celebrity status.

This book is actuall three stories in one: the first comes in snapshots of Cumming’s childhood, which was terrorised by his physically and emotionally abusive father. At the same time as telling this story, Cumming tells the story of something he went through much later in life, in the Summer of 2010. The third story is of Cumming’s appearance on the BBC1 show Who Do You Think You Are at the same time as the other story that ruled his life in 2010.

The paperback cover has a quote from Stephen Fry:

One of the most memorable, heart-stopping autobiographies I have ever read.

I could not have said this better myself, to be honest. It’s amazingly well written, and tells three very compelling stories that somehow seem to tie together neatly at the end – despite the fact one of them is about a long lost relative that Cumming never even met!

The scenes of abuse in this book are told so eloquently that I was squirming in my seat, wanting to turn away and not look at it any longer – but at the same time desperate to see where he was going with the rest of the story. There are parts that brought tears to my eyes, especially towards the end of the book. Despite the traumatic childhood, and further unbelievable mental anguish later in his life, there is not a trace of self pity or angling for sympathy in this book. Cumming tells the story as it happens, and speaks frankly about how it made him feel without over-egging it.

As I said above, this is not a celebrity book. It’s not some sensationalist, ghost-written, sacharrine tome cynically released to catch the Christmas shoppers or Fathers’ Day panic buyers. From what Cumming says in the book, it came about because once the story in this book came to an end, he kept telling it to people in that way you can’t help but talk about something massive that has happened in your life.. until eventually people suggested he put it in a book.

This is a brave and truthful memoir that doesn’t pull any punches. It is beautifully written and grabbed my attention from beginning to end – having started it on Monday evening, I had finished by Tuesday evening. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone; I think it’s fantastic.

 

Thanks for reading.

You can read my other book reviews here.

 


MamaMummyMum

Vicky is a single mother, a blogger, a podcaster and a social media trainer. You can find her blogging, business and social media tips at VickyCharles.com.

11 Comments
  • Catherine

      REPLY

    Wow! It must have been a good read for you to finish it so quickly! I will definitely look out for this one :) #readwithme Catherine recently posted...Pirates Don’t Drive Diggers by Alex English & Duncan BeedieMy Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      It really is that good!

  • Astrid

      REPLY

    I think I'd love to read this book. I don't usually read books by celebrities, but as you say, this isn't the usual kind of celebrity memoir. Astrid recently posted...Healing Quotes: Looking Fear in the FaceMy Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      It's definitely not, Astrid. It's just a fantastic book by someone who happens to be famous.

  • chantelle hazelden

      REPLY

    I like the sound of this, celebrity "autobiographies" really bug me sometimes as you say they seem to be put out purely to make money. this sounds a lot more promising. thanks for sharing with #readwithme x chantelle hazelden recently posted...Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Book GiveawayMy Profile

  • Iona@Redpeffer

      REPLY

    I really like Alan Cumming and have a lot of admiration for him. Glad you enjoyed the book. Iona@Redpeffer recently posted...Learning Life Lessons is Tough But Books Can HelpMy Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      Thanks Iona. It's an amazing book.

  • Mrs Tubbs

      REPLY

    Sounds excellent. I usually avoid celeb biogs, but this might be the exception. #readwithme

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      It's definitely nothing like any other celebrity biog I've read before. It's just an amazing and compelling human story by a man whose name I happened to already know.

  • Sarah Doyle - let them be small

      REPLY

    I think I read that interview too (was it the sunday times magazine one?) It sounded interesting (but sad too) Hopefully I will be able to get chance to read it at some stage x #readwithme Sarah Doyle - let them be small recently posted...My Monkey Mad BoyMy Profile

    1. Vicky Charles

        REPLY

      It's definitely worth a read Sarah, I loved it.

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