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Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

Audiobook Narrated by Alan Cumming


My little daughter has been very sick this week with a nasty bout of tonsillitis so I knew very early on that she wouldn't be attending nursery. Cue days at home with her toys, books and doggies while she recuperated. I knew that I wouldn't be able to read a great deal so I thought I'd take a look at the Audible store and came across this little gem by Alan Cumming, narrated by himself. He is a wonderful actor (I never get enough of him as Eli Gold on The Good Wife) and I've enjoyed his various documentaries over the years so I thought I'd give it a shot. That was yesterday afternoon. By lunchtime today I had finished listening to it.


I know you should never judge a book by it's cover nor a person by their appearance but I've always thought Alan Cumming has the most beautiful soulful eyes with so much to tell. Well, I can pat myself on the back because this man does indeed have a story to share. This book is by turns tender and shocking and you can't help but be carried along by its narrative structure. Moving between Alan's memories through his childhood and early years to the events in 2010 when he took part in the BBC TV programe Who Do You Think You Are?


“"Soon, my head was propelled forward by his hand, the other one wielding a rusty pair of clippers that he used on the sheep…They were blunt and dirty and they cut my skin, but my father shaved my head with them, holding me down like an animal.”


Alan's story of his childhood is harrowing and this particular scene stood out and stayed with me throughout the entire narration. Young Alan needed a haircut and although he offered to go during his lunchtime at school the following day, his father literally took Alan into his own hands. Once he had sheered and humiliated his son, Alan was told to go and get a 'proper haircut'. Hearing the adult voice of Alan Cumming telling this story really made the power and horror of this encounter resonate with me. I wanted to reach out and comfort the little wounded boy even though I was separated from him by decades. This is just one moment in a collection of events that should not happen to any child. The manipulation and fear was palpable throughout the narration and yet you know little Alan will be ok because we have such an incredible man telling us his story.


The "Then' chapters, which retell the difficult events from his childhood run parallel with his experiences of filming Who Do You Think You Are? During the filming Alan travels across the world to find out what happened to his maternal grandfather, the wonderfully named, Tommy Darling. While visiting various sites for the filming and research of the show, Alan is floored by the revelation that he is not his father's son. As you can imagine his world is shaken. Does he want to be his father's son given his torturous relationship with his abusive father? Would he feel some kind of freedom in the knowledge that he isn't his father's son?


I've noticed that I've called the author Alan all the way through this! Normally, I would use an author's surname but I feel like he has given so much that he's more of a friend.


I cannot recommend this autobiography highly enough.


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