Growing up, Tom saw his dad abuse his mum, shout obscenities in her face, brutally drag her around the house and inflict other unspeakable cruelties. It went on for years; the family never told a soul.
Tom knew his dad was a monster, yet he loved him. He was both friend and foe, someone to fear and at the same time someone Tom felt obliged to defend. His father’s actions taught him some deeply hurtful lessons; to be fearful of the world, to be suspicious of others, and to assume that love always has to be earned. When Tom became a favourite and protege of his comprehensive-school teacher; that story too turned dark. Tom – again – never told a soul.
It was only after his father’s death – and becoming a father himself – that Tom began to comprehend his family’s trauma and its enduring impact on all of them.
An honest and insightful memoir depicting the author’s childhood growing up in a household where his father was abusive. Verbally, physically and sexually abusive to Tom’s mother, we learn how hearing, seeing and knowing about this impacts the child, in this book we hear how young Tom would intervene in his father’s assaults, learning young how to calm and pacify. The lasting impact of this setting; the triggering effects of noise and violence.
Surrounding this violent homelife was chaos, a man who struggled to hold down a job, despite being a successful journalist. A man who struggled in his relationships with others, not just his wife. A man who used alcohol and was so anti establishment that the family were in debt, had to move house and avoid bailiffs. A man who could not be challenged within the family for fear of repercussions. Despite all of this Tom maintained a relationship with his father until his death and the author was open about the confusion of this relationship. He spoke about his fragmented family life, the problems in the relationship with his sisters (triplets) and the differing experiences of their father’s behaviour.
And all of this before we even talk about the vulnerable boy, groomed by a predatory school teacher. The chaos of family life leaving him vulnerable to exploitation.
Truthfully this was a remarkably insightful read, really exposing the impact of domestic abuse on children, something that was not considered a significant concern until fairly recently. The author shares the constant hypervigilance he lived with, checking his father for signs of anger and escalation, seeking as a child to maintain a safe environment. The secrecy necessary to maintain the status quo.
As a reader I predominantly read fiction, but do like a biography, particularly ones of this nature. Professionally my current role involves me working with children, some of whom have experienced domestic abuse and I found this book useful in offering me a first hand insight into this lived experience. This book was sad and at times difficult to read, but Tom, the author is a survivor and his strength and resilience is impressive. Books such as these are important because they help us to learn and understand and I am grateful to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.
About the Author
Tom Mitchelson’s immersive and investigative journalism has appeared in The Times, the Daily Mail and the Guardian. He’s the author of Shut Up and Kiss Me and co-author of The Little Book of Brexit Bollocks. He co-wrote BBC Radio 4’s comedy series wrote the weekly topical monologue for Loose Ends. He has also provided comedy material for prime-time shows on ITV and Channel 4. He’s and experienced public speaker and recently gave his first Ted Talk.