This is an honest and hard hitting autobiography that should help readers understand what motivates some of the ‘difficult’ characters they may come across in life. The author himself has been one such. His bravery in exposing himself so thoroughly, without any attempt to shield his identity, must be acknowledged. Hopefully, readers will properly take in all he shares and consequently understand why he led the life he has and not condemn or censure him for it. It is also to be hoped the book will help overcome some of societies prejudices.
His mother having put him out, at the age of two years, with the rubbish, Paul Connolly goes on to have a terrible childhood in ‘care’. In this account he effectively shows how social services and ‘care’ systems failed him as well as many other children and young people. Numerous difficult and horrible situations and circumstances are detailed but with a sensitivity that avoids depressing or horrifying the reader too much. These include:
Sexual Abuse: Without being licentious or over graphic, sufficient detail is given to enable readers to understand what had been going on.
Psychological Abuse: The author suffered much from this and effectively shows the reader how such abuse has a long-term, life-long, impact. A good part of this autobiography explains how he dealt, or did not deal, with his own undermined personality.
Violence: The author bravely acknowledges his own violent nature that he obviously regrets. Nevertheless, he unashamedly shares what are really the consequences of abuse. The motivations driving his behaviour and where those motivations originate are plainly explained. The reader will be saddened to see how someone who should have cared for the child author almost destroyed him and were responsible for the destruction of other lives.
The author also talks about his feelings of guilt and self-recrimination with regard to a boyhood friend. Readers will undoubtedly consider these feelings unfounded: he had his own problems to deal with and probably could not have helped his friend. The psychological and physical damage to his friend had already occurred and was most likely irreversible. Nevertheless, it is easy for the reader to understand the authors feelings even if they are unjustified.
It is to the author’s credit that he managed to retain a sensible and pragmatic outlook upon life. This enabled him, not only to seek appropriate tuition, even if it was late in life, but to also have a successful career. The reader will see he has achieved far more than many who have had comparatively easier lives. The fact he has to endure a life long struggle with the violence that lurks just below the surface is regrettable. The reader will comprehend the serious failure of family, so called carers and inadequate systems are responsible for this condition. Paul Connolly must be admired for his endeavours to control the violence and for his success in doing so.
Though upsetting, this is an interesting and informative read. The brutal encounters are effectively described but are kept at a reasonable level so as not to traumatise the reader too much. This account also provides a window onto some of the social behaviours of the time.
The book has evidently been edited but in such a way that unmistakably retains the author’s own voice. It is a personal tale, personally told. It would have been a shame to have lost the personal style. It reads easily and would make a good addition to any collection of English social history. It may not be the most gratifying historical record but it is a true account that is supported and confirmed by public-domain legal records.
Four stars (4*).
The book is available in paperback and e-book formats.