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I have just finished this book and am in tears as I type. A word of warning you will cry! It's is an amazing story which really moved me. She and her siblings are inspirational people to have had disgusting childhoods like this. I felt so sorry for her and just couldn't put the book down waiting to find out how she got out and survived. Her farther is an evil man, you feel such hatred towards him. At the begining of the book feel sorry for the mother until you realise she is just as sick and twisted. I felt such anger towards the social services and legal system towards the end of the book, how could they just ignore them! Every man and his dog knew thoses children were being abused and yet they did nothing. I felt ashamed. It is a harrowing tale that I think everyone should read just so they can appericate the life's they have and to be thankful it is nothing like this brave woman's. You do feel incredibly sorry for Jenny through the book but then an intense feeling of pride that she managed to get her life back on track and is above all finally happy.
I read this book at the beginning of last year, and I found it to be very affecting. I am not usually a fan of so-called "misery memoirs" but I have found myself reading more and more of them lately; i'm not too sure why; must be getting a bit morbid in my old age or something! But this has to be one of the worst cases of child abuse I have ever heard or read about.
Jenny Tomlin is a truly inspirational woman. This book is a retrospective account of her life from early childhood to early adulthood. It can be very difficult to read at times and is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
PEOPLE IN THE BOOK:
Jenny - the author of the book. Jenny is the mother of the actress/singer Martine McCutcheon, most famous for her role as Tiffany in Eastenders in the 1990s. Jenny had an extremely troubled childhood; neglected by both parents and living in a filthy house with hardly any food to eat, and sexually, physically and mentally abused by her paedophile father. She becomes something of a surrogate mother to her younger siblings.
Kim - Jenny's younger sister, also sexually, mentally and physically abused by their father.
Laurence - Jenny's older brother, who is mentally and physically abused by their father, but not sexually (in Jenny's own words, "he was saving that for the girls".)
Carole - Jenny's youngest sister, who is also sexually abused by their father, but always jumps to his defence (Jenny feels that this must have been her way of dealing with it).
Chris - the youngest brother in the family, also physically and mentally abused by their father, who unfortunately dies at the tender age of 16 from solvent abuse (I'm not giving anything away here; Jenny speaks of his death in the book's prologue).
Jenny's father - I can honestly say that this man is such an absolute scumbag. He abuses his children in such terrible ways, as well as assualting and raping his wife on an almost daily basis. He does not have one redeeming feature. What I really did wonder when reading the book was how did he come to be this way? From Jenny's account of his parents there is no suggestion that his childhood was anything like the hell he made his own children live through.
Jenny's mother - I found myself getting so angry with this woman! She take so much abuse from her husband yet is willing to put his needs before those of her children. I did feel quite sorry for her in the early parts of the book as Jenny says that she thinks her mother may have had some sort of learning disability. This was until I got to in my opinion the most awful part of the story, where her mother stands by and cheers on as her father rapes their friend's 10 year old daughter (and in fact films the rape), and is more than willing to watch Jenny be raped by their male friend at the age of nine. This really did turn my stomach and I found it very shocking; we all know that terrible things like this do happen but to read someone's first-person account of it is still incredibly difficult. I told you this book wasn't for the faint-hearted!
Auntie - the children's great-aunt who is the one person in the world who really cares for them. Jenny speaks of this lady with such warmth, love and affection, and it's not surprising as she sounds like a remarkably kind and selfless woman.
MY OPINION OF THE BOOK:
I found the book quite difficult to read; it is so sad to think that things like this are still happening today. At the time the book is set, in the 1960s and 1970s, there was very little legislation around child protection. There are so many points in the book where the children could have been helped but they were virtually ignored by everyone, including the police and the NSPCC. It made me think of the recent tragic cases in the news and what we as a society can do to stop the abuse of our most vulnerable members.
As I said at the beginning of this review, Jenny Tomlin is truly inspirational. It must have been so difficult for her to write this book, reliving old memories like that, although you get the feeling that this was ultimately a cathartic experience for her.
I would recommend this book, although it is very upsetting and affecting.
My daughter first brought my attention to the heartbreaking story "Behind Closed Doors" by Jenny TOMLIN. It gives a truly shocking account of an extrememly sad and miserable childhood.
Living in the Eastend of London Jenny gives a vivid insight into the dark and dingy world of abuse, and this is carried out by the very person who should love nuture, and protect, her and her siblings, HER OWN FATHER.
Every social worker, and child protection agency should read this book as part of their training programme, I am not ashamed to tell you I was in tears, my heart so went out to Jenny, I felt I wanted to hug her better, such is the impact of this book.
The squalour and deprivation of this unfortunate family is told in such a way I found it hard to put the book down.
Please read the follow up "Silent Sisters, and find out what becomes them
I have to say, this would not be my normal choice of reading material but a friend had just finished it and recommended it to me.
It is written by Jenny Tomlin, the mother of actress Martine McCutcheon (best known for her role as Tiffany in Eastenders). It is the true story of her upbringing in London's East End in the 1960s and tells of her survival against all the odds. It is a harrowing story of starvation, beatings and sexual abuse at the hands of her father.
He was a vicious bully who beats his wife and children on an almostly daily basis. He spends his life in front of the television waiting for his benefits cheque to arrive. Most of this money he spends on his chain-smoking habit and the fact that perhaps it could be put to better use feeding his children, never crosses his mind.
Jenny's mother, who married quite young, is portrayed as an illiterate, browbeaten victim who doesn't know how to look after her home or her children. The family live in terrible squalor and filth, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. The children grow quite adept at foraging for food amongst the rotting fruit and vegetables left by stallholders at the nearby market..
As well as Jenny, there is an older brother Laurence and a younger sister Kim. They are close in ages and are a tight knit group who look out for one another. A few years down the line another sister (Carole) and brother (Christopher) join the family and due to their mother's neglect and inability to look after them, Jenny then aged 8, bears the responsibility of looking after them, including nappy changing and night feeds.
As if all the above were not enough to contend with, Jenny's father starts to sexually abuse her from the age of about 4 or 5. Her sister Kim is also subject to the abuse. As if being abused by her father was not bad enough, he then tries to involve her in pornographic film making with his friends as a way of making money. Luckily, he is unsuccessful with this abhorrent money making scheme.
The one shining light in Jenny's life is "Auntie", to whom the book is dedicated. Auntie is actually the aunt of Jenny's mother and the person who raised her mother. She represents everything that is good in Jenny's life and doesn't have at home - someone who loves her and her siblings, clean clothes, clean home and food on the table. She loves the time she spends at Auntie's house. Laurence, Kim and her are usually despatched to Auntie's when their father wants them out of the way or wants some money from her.
Jenny feels she was let down by all the adults in her life with the exception of Auntie. No-one believes her when she plucks up the courage to tell them about the abuse she is suffering. Although a man from the NSPCC calls at the house quite often, he only speaks to her parents and the one time she tries to speak to him about her situation, he wants her do it in front of her parents. Obviously Jenny realises if she tells the truth a brutal beating will result once he has left.
Once Jenny reaches secondary school she makes friends and sees this as a turning point in her life. She grows up into a strong, independent woman who comes out the other side of the hell hole that was her childhood.
Although a harrowing booking to read in some parts, it does show how strong the human spirit can be.
I didn't understand when people say don't touch me there daddy because in the story not once has Jenny ever said daddy it was dad.
Anyways, Jenny's life is a living hell, her sister Kim and her brother Lawrence stand tall with eachother as they are abused and sexually abused as well as their mother.
When I first read this book, her mother was not a strong woman enough to leave for the sake of her children.
Auntie, I was surprised and happy for the second chapter. I really look up to this woman, she took care of Jenny, Kim, and Lawrence saving them from the abuse, still not knowing about it she finds out when Jenny confesses that he has touched Kim and her.
Jenny's mother has two more children a girl and a boy..
Christopher and [I forget the other sister's name] .
Well, Jenny's new sister grows and soon she is being sexually abused like her and Kim were.
Jenny meets a lovely bloak named John, it was amazing how there love was.
Auntie later dies, and It's a horrible breath taking scene.
This whole book made me laugh, made me cry and made me so angry.
But I cannot seem to take my hands off it.
I can relate to this AMAZING book it had me in tears from start to finish i 2 have written a bookabout the systematic abuse i have written about the abuse i suffered at the hands of my father it was so clsoe to home reading this book it made me realise i wasnt alone and that we need to fight more for ourselves and that we are not alone although i am just amazingly brilliant
It was while watching ITV's loose women recently that they had a guest called Jenny Tomlin on. We were told that she was the mother of Martina McCutcheon (the ex-EastEnders/film/singing star), and she started talking about her new book - Behind closed doors.
It was billed as a biography that would was graphic and shocking My wife decided she wanted to read the book so I went to WH Smith and bought it. Our copy was hardback and costs £9.99, I had just finished the book I was reading so decided I would grab it before my wife.
Lets be honest everyone has a biography out these days - Jordan, Sharon Osbourne, Goldie Hawn, Jane Fonda, Boy George and so the list goes on! From what I gather this is her first book, although the sleeve tells us she is writing a follow up. But why we decided to buy this book was the fact she was unknown (to us anyway) so my read began
We find that Jenny has one brother called Laurence, and sister called Kim and they live in London with their parents. Her dad doesn't work due to his fitting, which is usually done to order when social security comes to check etc. Their mother is completely ruled by the father and has no say-so without his permission.
As the story unfolds you get an insight into the harsh world of the Ponting family. Whereas other children about them had love and regular food they had abuse and starvation. The children never knew where their next meal was coming from, and they never knew who was next to be thumped by the father.
Worse still was the sexual abuse the children suffered, I thought I was unshockable but when mother and father visit a friend with Jenny what happens did I admit shock me. I could hardly believe that any parent could possibly inflict such cruelty and abuse on their child.
The house in which the family lived was squalor nothing less; the parents did no housework, and the benefits what were for the whole family were spent on cigarettes and drink for the father. Occasionally he'd think of the children such as at Christmas.
In amongst all this nastiness was one nice caring person known as 'Auntie'. The parents would ship the children out to auntie when they wanted money or the children were starting school, knowing that auntie would buy them uniform. The safety, cleanliness, and love of auntie's house were a welcome respite from the conditions they were living in, and they knew they would get fed and treated well there.
As the children get older the parents have two more children a boy and a girl, both of whom following the foot steps of their older siblings for the abuse and filthy living conditions etc. The difference is this time Auntie says she can't have them, and won't give any money for them.
The children begin to leave school and get jobs, and eventually the police have enough evidence to take the father to court, and the mother begins divorce proceedings: Unfortunately, things don't go as swimmingly as they should. Shortly afterwards Auntie is diagnosed with senile dementia: And so starts the beginning of the end of the beautiful relationship between her and the children.
As stated I thought I was unshockable after all, the world we are living in makes ones senses become numb. But this book did shock me, I didn't realise that people could face such unloving home lives or the abuse this family do. But the part that shocked me most was the part when their father took one of the girls over to a mate's house - that shocked me. I'm not stupid and am aware this sort of thing goes on, but to read someone's first hand experience of it was not nice.
The book is not an easy read in as much as the chapters are somewhat lengthy, and the wording isn't always reader friendly. Plus I felt a few errors in the book particularly when it mentions that Bury St Edmunds is in Norfolk, when it is actually Suffolk. Nor does it prove easy to read for content, as it is quite disturbing. I recall when I was younger the truth that children were not listened to, and despite the children telling several adults, no one takes them seriously enough except Auntie who is unable to do anything.
I was glad they had some respite in the form of Auntie, but felt panged when she got the dreaded Alzheimer's.
Overall I would recommend the book for reading, it is not a hugely long read and indeed was the fastest I have ever completed a book. It is disturbing reading.
Thanks for reading - Dave
Behind Closed Doors
Hardback £12.99 RRP
From the publishers of the Number One bestseller IT'S A LONG WAY FROM PENNY APPLES comes a heartbreaking childhood memoir and true story of the triumph of the human spirit Jenny grew up in a house where no-one was safe from her father's violent beatings and sexual assaults, where her mother was his accomplice and a family outing was a trip to make a porn film. This is the story of how she and two of her siblings not only survived but ultimately transcended all the degradations heaped on them. With the power of love, cunning, the blackest of black humour and an indestructible self-belief, Jenny moved on, through a disastrous relationship with a man who abused her, to fulfilment, happiness and a fantastically good relationship with her own children. This is a genuinely inspiring story of redemption.