Not My Father's Son: A Family Memoir
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'One of the most memorable, heart-stopping autobiographies I have ever read' STEPHEN FRY
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
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 thirteen, 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.
break down, to trap me there, to give me time to recover and regroup. Aside from “Hello” and “Take care” at my granny’s funeral, those were the first words I had spoken to my father in over sixteen years. I spent the next few hours being filmed wandering round Covent Garden watching the street entertainers. This material would be used for the beginning of my episode of Who Do You Think You Are? with the sonorous voice-over setting the scene for my story. It was a sunny day, and I looked like I
to this time, I truthfully don’t think I remembered any of the actual details of my father’s abuse. I was still in denial, along with my mother and Tom. Fear and silence will ensure that. But as the months went by, I was becoming more and more ill-tempered, irrational and unable to communicate. The play was incredibly emotional and exhausting of course, but I knew it wasn’t just that. My wife and I were still trying for a child, but I was secretly becoming more and more relieved each month when
got in!” I yelled in joy, and immediately the kitchen door flew open and Mum rushed in to hug me. “I start in September!” I said in disbelief. I was going to be free. “I’m so proud of you, son.” She turned away from me, sobs gurgling up from somewhere deep. I went upstairs to the Big Room and sat staring out at the fields and fields of green. I was numb. It was actually going to happen. When I went down again to eat, my father was home. Mum had obviously told him my news. “Aye. That’s the
since he was there only a short time before he died. “Well, he’s the one who used to mix up all the gangs,” said Datuk Rahman. “The leaders of the community, like my father, and a few others like the Chinese leader and Indian leader, they used to go together and have a good time. You know? They enjoyed drinking.” So, Tuan Darling liked a party and a wee drink. I could relate. Then I told the brothers that I had learned today how my grandfather had died. Their smiles quickly faded and their
things. After a moment she replied, “I think you’re coming here because you know your father is dying and you want to make your peace with him.” I felt like I’d been slapped across the face. It was so obvious, and so right. That was exactly what I was doing. “Yes,” I said softly. “I think you’re right.” I went home and bawled my eyes out. The date of the broadcast of my episode of Who Do You Think You Are? approached. Because of filming in New York I wasn’t going to be able to watch it on the