Not My Father's Son

  • by Alan Cumming
  • Narrated by Alan Cumming
  • 6 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Alan Cumming grew up in the grip of a man who held his family hostage, someone who meted out violence with a frightening ease, who waged a silent war with himself that sometimes spilled over onto everyone around him. That man was Alan's father, Alex Cumming.
Alex was the dark, enigmatic heart of Cumming family life. But he was not the only mystery. Alan's maternal grandfather, Tommy Darling, had disappeared to the Far East after the Second World War. The last time Alan's mother saw her father she was eight years old. When she was 13, the family was informed that he had died in an accidental shooting.
Curious to explore this second mystery, Alan committed to filming an episode of the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? Then out of the blue, his father, who Alan and his brother had not seen or spoken to for more than a decade, called. He had a secret he had to share, one that would shock his son to his very core and set in motion a journey that would change Alan's life forever.
At times suspenseful, at times deeply moving, but always brave and honest, Not My Father's Son is a powerful story about embracing the best aspects of the past and triumphantly pushing the darkness aside.

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Audible Editor Reviews

Tremendously moving and eloquently written, Alan Cumming's Not My Father's Son is a brutally honest memoir of the extraordinary life he has led. In this autobiography audiobook edition of his novel, Cumming narrates through the journey that has been his life - from a young boy with an abusive father to the icon he is today. Heartfelt, inspirational and awakening, Cumming's story is one that stays with the listener long after the final word is spoken. This book is not just for fans of this incredible man but for anyone who is touched by the emancipation of a child from the grasps of a violent beginning. Available now from Audible.

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What the Critics Say

"Equal parts memoir, whodunnit and manual for living, Not My Father's Son is a beautifully written, honest look at the forces of blood and bone that make us what we are, and how we make ourselves. I was completely sucked in." (Neil Gaiman)
"What a shattering, compelling and extraordinary story Alan Cumming has to tell. And he does so with such style and grace . . . Beautifully and cunningly structured, Not My Father's Son is one of the most memorable, heart-stopping autobiographies I have ever read." (Stephen Fry)
"Do you know the old line "I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me"? Alan Cumming's moving memoir Not My Father's Son is all that and more. This is a beautiful book-sad, funny, haunting, surprising, suspenseful, gut-wrenching, endearing. It will linger inside of you long after you turn the final page." (Harlan Coben, author of New York Times bestsellers Missing You and Six Years)
"In beautiful, honest, arresting prose, he offers a tale you'll never forget. A real diamond of a book." (Andrew O'Hagan)
"A clear-eyed, often moving account of both his terrifying childhood and his recent attempts to come to terms with his past [. . .] Not My Father's Son moves elegantly and with an occasional dash of humour between Cumming's childhood and the revelations of the more recent past [. . .] memorable." (Chicago Tribune)
"One of the most fun people in show business" (Time)
"Cumming's eccentric style and assured voice shine brightly on every page, while escorting readers and fans on a memorable journey that is simultaneously insightful, brave, moving, and witty." (Book List)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

An extraordinary memoir

Where does Not My Father's Son rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best ever.


What did you like best about this story?

This is no showbiz memoir, although the revelation that Patti Smith has a tendency to spit had me in stitches. It's a heart-wrenching story of Alan's painful childhood, his fraught relationship with his father, intertwined with the slow unfolding mystery of his grandfather's abandonment of his family after the Second World War and subsequent death in Malaysia. Above all, it's a powerful, honest story and a wholly intriguing yarn, more fascinating than fiction.


Which character – as performed by Alan Cumming – was your favourite?

Alan has a particular talent for bringing to life the women in his family: his mother, the formidable and clearly-adored Mary Darling, and his charming, wickedly funny granny. He has the most beautiful voice, too.


Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It's a deeply emotional story, and I laughed out loud and wept unashamedly in turns.


Any additional comments?

Quite the most astonishing audiobook (or indeed publication of any kind) I've heard in ages. More than anything, one comes out of the experience with deep respect for Alan Cumming as a human being, someone who refused to back down until he had found the truth he needed to begin healing.

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- Katherine

A heartbreaking, and yet heartwarming story...

This really is an extraordinary book. I should probably start by saying that, if you’re looking for a ‘My Fabulous Life’ type of biography packed with anecdotes of famous chums and exotic locations then keep moving; this is not one of those books. Instead Alan Cumming has taken two key events from his life and, via a series of ‘Then and Now’ sections, begins to see links and parallels between them.

Alan Cumming is asked if he wants to be the subject of one of the BBCs ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ TV shows, in which the BBC delve through a celebrities family history to see if there are any skeletons in cupboards. As it happens Cummings is interested in his maternal grandfather, Tommy Darling, who disappeared after WWII and never came home again, and so he agrees.

But thinking about what the show may discover Cummings is reminded (as if he needs to be) of his traumatic childhood where he lived under the threat of his bullying fathers explosive temper, enduring a constant stream of criticism and sarcasm that nearly always erupted into violent beatings. Try as he does to please his father nothing he does is good enough, and Alan and his brother Tom are constantly reminded of how worthless their father considers them both to be. And so, as the BBC filming progresses and the story of grandfather Tommy Darling unravels, Alan often travels back to his childhood and the key events that help forge the man he is today.

As a parent I found some of these passages very difficult to listen to, especially when the father seems to take pleasure in preventing his sons pursuing any interests they may have. But the worst for me was when Alan retells the story of a particularly savage beating he endured over some minor chore not carried out to his father’s satisfaction. The anger and sadness that wells up when you listen to this story is palpable.

An amazing book, and one that leaves the listener speechless afterward.

Very well done Mr Cumming, dreams can indeed come true…
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- Colin

Book Details

  • Release Date: 30-10-2014
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd