• Not My Father's Son

  • A Family Memoir
  • By: Alan Cumming
  • Narrated by: Alan Cumming
  • Length: 6 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Release date: 10-30-14
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
  • 4.6 (28 ratings)

Regular price: $16.26

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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.
©2014 Alan Cumming (P)2014 Canongate Books Ltd
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Amazon Customer on 08-27-17

This book is honest and touching

This books explains abuse and the effects of abuse in the most honest way. It sheds light on the dark places. It exposes and reveal the unspoken in the most beautiful and strangely caring way. The scariest thing about abuse is the silence that follows. It's the silence that makes it commonplace and acceptable. Allan Cumming is a courageous man

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By Sally on 02-12-17


A wonderful moving book that navigates the pain of abuse and the joy of love, life and family. I have loved Alan Cumming as a character actor I now love him as a person. A beautiful book.

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Customer Reviews

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By Katherine on 11-06-14

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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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

By Colin on 08-16-15

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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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Susan on 02-17-16

Don't think twice! Buy this book!

Loved every second of it. Gutted its finished. Incredibly well written, read & produced. So beautiful!

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

By ally burgo on 12-06-17

Interesting and beautifully narrated.

Quite an interesting story. Allan Cumming has a gorgeous way with words and a beautiful accent which helps the story. The bit about his grandfather added to the story and Allan’s grace and empathy shines through from start to finish. I’m not particularly a fan but was recommended the book and now I want to go back and watch his back catalogue ;-)

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