Over Christmas, three books about entertainment folk kept me enthralled, engaged and informed. The first of these was the haunting and, at times, surprisingly funny autobiography of Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son. A story of how Alan Cumming (and, indeed, his entire family) overcame years of abusive and outrageously insensitive treatment by his father to break free and become his own man, Alan’s tale is written with real control and intelligence and is utterly engaging throughout. In telling his story, he skips back and forth between his present position of success (which has made him the subject of a BBC documentary about his life) and the childhood that scarred and terrified him. Cumming was the subject of a programme about his family and past, Who do you Think you Are?, and this is the impetus behind his revisiting his difficult childhood and the story of his family. The book is a series of ever-more-surprising revelations at times almost a mystery story, so I don’t want to go into too much detail and spoil the shocks and alarms. Not surprisingly, the dysfunctional father ill-treated Alan’s brother and mother too, and it’s the bonding and mutual support system of these three people that is one of the most touching aspects of the tale. Not only is the story well written and told with exemplary insight, it unfolds more or less in the sequence in which Alec Cumming figured things out so when the revelations come they are genuinely surprising and also pack a wallop. The format makes it more possible to read the parallels of past and present. The tale is told very personally and, I think, bravely. Friends of mine, male and female, who read the book at my suggestion, came back to thank me for introducing them to it; and all of them said they had cried at some points. Alan Cumming is a good writer; he has already proved in the past year of so by publishing a novel, Tommy’s Tale. A moving, touching and very truthful story, Not My Father’s Son is a well-told tale that is extremely touching and powerful in its honesty.

About The Author

Canadian-born Mel Cooper came to the UK to study at Oxford and stayed, captivated by the culture and history of the welcoming and tolerant society of Britain.
He founded the magazine Opera Now. He was a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting and a member of the team that started Classic FM on which he broadcast shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature.

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