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I remember seeing Constance Brisco on a TV chat show many years ago, and after hearing her speak of her childhood, I found myself almost addicted to wanting to know more about her struggles.
I instantly felt drawn to this (Her first book) because of its strong visual appearance, a simple photograph of a child resting ob her arm, a very innocent and unassuming photograph which, gives little away. And then the title; UGLY, I had on reading this title already decided that this book had chosen me as apposed to me choosing it... and my love affair for this must read began.
From page one I felt comfortable with Brisco's writing style- Easy to follow, deep, poetic and very alluring. She sets a wonderfully visual scene and allows the reader to really get to know the main characters within the pages of her life.
The story itself is one of great pain, sorrow, torture and quite frankly a nightmare of a childhood. (I refuse to give the plot away and spoil this read for everyone)
Within a day I had become addicted to turning the pages and reading deeper into her life, I have to say this book genuinely made me laugh and utterly sob like a child. Brisco's language, writing style and ability to draw the reader in all make for a wonderful and heartwarming experience.
The plot is based around a young child growing up with a hateful mother, it is a tale of one little girls real struggle with growing up in an environment consisting of both mental, physical and sexual abuse. A real page turner and an absolute pleasure to read.
What makes this story in particular so heartwarming is the great detail and sheer courage Brisco shows, which ultimately brings the reader to experience a wonderful and joyous ending, and one which of course leads you to ponder our own life struggles..
This book is not only a wonderfully inspirational read, but it also offers hope to those with the same struggles.
I was recommended this book by a family friend, as i am aspiring to become a barrister as this is a story written by a barrister about her struggle to achieve her goal. I really enjoyed this book, it is completely different from the books i usually read, but it is definitely worth a read.
Constance is one of 6 siblings bought up by her mother Carmen and step father. Constance has to battle with daily beatings, punches and abuse. We see how miserable she is growing up and the effects this abuse had on her. There does not seem to be any reason why she is beaten in such a way other than the fact Carmen is just an unfit mother, not worthy of her children. I wont go into to too much detail as to the ins and outs of the beatings as i would not want to ruing the story but it does get very serious to the point where Constance tries to commit suicide by drink bleach as she is constantly told she is a "germ" and bleach kills germs.
The story does not go into too much detail about how she came to become a barrister, but the story is brilliant, it is very touching and provokes emotions so strongly in you, you just want to try and make everything better. I would definitely recommend giving this book a read it is a great story.
About two years ago, my grandmother suggested that I read this book as she found it utterly inspirational. Now, my nan's read a few books in her time, and I never passed off an opportunity to read a classic story about an innocent girls powerless prejudice.
One of the things that really struck me about this book is the way Briscoe conveys herself. She uses clear, vivid and honest memories to express her feelings of inferiority and separation.
"Ugly" is a moving book about a childhood lead in dismay, expressing the importance of not only having a dream, but what you have to cope with to successfully get there.
Constance Briscoe, referred to in the book as "Clare" begins as an 11 year old girl, with a "loveless childhood" Clare is indeed unloved...but unloved is not the word to describe how she was treated. Abused,tortured and forced to live a life of solitude, feeling inferior and an obvious deprivation of love. But there was one thing that could never be taken from Clare: her hope, belief and rare talents.
Briscoe explores her childhood memories, mostly painful. The fact that an author can openly show emotions and personal grief is something which gives a quality stamp on a good book. The cover shows an image of Clare, however reading a book, understanding an authors characterisation and building up an image of a character can lead to a unique picture in your head; this is exactly what this book does. I'm surprised I hadn't heard of this book before as it would have tought me so much about what people have to go through in life, making me more tolerable of the little things that depress me. Ugly has definitely taught me this, opening my naive eyes to a painful world of suffering and the consequenses of having nobody to turn to...
In the book, Clare's mother is portrayed as an evil woman with no love for her young offspring. Clare's mother points out all of Clare's flaws, making her feel bad about herself, physically and mentally torturing her. Briscoe describes her pain using some strong laguage, effectively allowing me to empathise with how she felt during this tough time in her life.
The character of Clare is shown as being very tolerable with her pain. Through the bed wetting stage, a new father and the arrival of a younger sibling. I admire the book for how it expressed a true story, by a truly inspirational author. I hope that other people can enjoy this book, as it taught me many a lesson in life.
Clare had a dream of being a judge, she wanted to be different, which she already is; but was discouraged by her unsupportive family.
Clare tried to show how she was feeling inside, but she was not listened to at all by anyone. She was despised by her family, encouraged by her teachers; Clare was only a child, but she had unique potential and grades which only support this.
Clare has to make a decision..live with her family, or live a life of her own where she can be free and safe.
But, you'll have to read to find out which path she takes...
Ugly is available in most good book retailers and on Ebay for around £6.99 for a new copy, and £4.99 for a used copy. I hope my review can be useful to potential buyers.
I like reading, and have a huge collection of books, mainly true stories and biographies.
The book I am reviewing is UGLY by Constance Briscoe.
Constance Briscoe has written this book about her personal experience of her own childhood.
Constance had a loveless childhood and was always treated as an outsider and was shown very little affection by anyone. This poor girl was treated so badly she even took herself off to Social Services to have herself taken into care, that was how bad she felt. She was told that it wasn't possible to hand herself over to them without the consent of her parents and just like that she was sent back home. She couldn't even allow her mother to find out that she had tried to escape, for this she would get another beating. She was just eleven years old.
This poor child even tried to kill herself by drinking bleach, she tought to herself that noone would miss her anyway so wrote her mother a note and left it for her to read.
Constance suffered from bedwetting and her mother would beat her for this and make her sleep on the floor rather than wetting 'her' bed (as in the mothers).
Throughout her childhood she was actually know as Clare, Clear or Clearie, and it wasn't untill she was older that she actually found out her real name! There were ten children altogether including Clare. They were all treated differently but none were treated in the terrible way that Clare was.
At Christmas she was still treated badly, and would recieve the same two presents every year, a spinning top and her dollie. Her siblings had new gifts. The girls were made to cook and clean everyday and Christmas day was the same as any other.
The beatings that Clare recieved varied in ways, she was hit but also grabbed by her breasts or other private parts. It's shocking how badly treated this girl was, She put up with all this untill one day her mother simply decided to move out, taking most of the other children with her, she left 3 of them in the house, two of the sisters were told they could visit and stay whereever they wanted. Clare was simply left. When she left, the girls had no electric or anything else, and this was down to them to sort out.
She also took her step-father to court for beating her.
At one point Clare also moved in with her teacher, but had to return to her family when the teacher had to go away. Unfortunatly whilst away the teacher had an accident which meant she felt she could no longer care for Clare.
As Clare got older she wanted to go and study law, she needed her birth certificate to apply, it was then she found out her true name... Constance Beverly Briscoe!
She qualified as a barrister in 1983.
For all the bad that happened to Constance she has fought well and worked hard for what she achieved, starting with the work she was doing in a clothes shop at about 14, she even took on a cleaning job and still went to school. She worked as an auxillary nurse and made something of her life....
Clearie was now Constance and she was doing well.
Article taken from the Sunday Times
If Constance Briscoe had lost the libel action pursued by her mother it would have swept away her entire life. Not only would she have faced an estimated £200,000 in damages but also an end to her legal career as a criminal barrister and judge. Moreover, it would have discredited Ugly, her bestselling childhood memoir in which she recounts the beatings, neglect and psychological cruelty at the hands of Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell, now 74.
But on Monday she won the case, celebrating her victory with a steak at Joe Allen's. "I haven't eaten one for years, but I felt quite bloody!" she says with relish. Her plan in the event of defeat was to resign from the Bar ("the only honourable thing to do"), potter in the garden of her house in France and write crime fiction.
Before the trial, Constance, 51, expected to lose. Her mother had convinced many of her ten siblings to give evidence against her, saying that the maternal abuse that she catalogues in her book - beatings with a stick, damage to her breasts, which resulted in fibroid-like growths, denial of food and abandonment at 14 - were the lies of a wicked fantasist. Constance's own best witness, her sister Pauline, who had initially pledged support, had disappeared without trace.
Only when, four days before the trial, social services released files - vital evidence that showed official concern for how Briscoe-Mitchell was raising Constance's younger siblings - did she dare to hope that she might win.
It is a truely moving story which I throughly enjoyed reading. There are 433 pages in this moving true story. It was published in 2006 and the RRP for the book is £6.99.
Over the last few years there has been a growing trend for 'misery-lit' titles - books which are memoirs of abuse, betrayal, real life misery and generally less than fortunate upbringing. They are extremely upsetting to read but they hold a strange kind of curiosity and fascination. I personally find that these books help me to put a lot of things into perspective, making me realise just how lucky I have been throughout my life so far and how much I appreciate everything I have got - particularly my family.
One such book is 'Ugly' by Constance Briscoe who is now a barrister and part-time judge. Successful and currently living in a £1 million London home, she hasn't always been this fortunate. In her first book she tells the autobiographical tale of her loveless childhood. An account of relentless abuse, violence, food deprivation, psychological torture, humiliation and torment...all suffered at the hands of the most least likely of people - her own mother.
The shock factor is inevitable in a book of this nature, leaving the reader exasperated and unable to comprehend the behaviour and personality of people within the pages...
This is the story of a young girl living in 1960's South London who is brought up within a very large Jamaican family. Being the third born out of a total of eleven siblings one can hardly say that she was unwanted, yet this is the distinct impression that is given. It causes the first of many unanswered questions to be raised...why Constance? Singled out for no apparent reason, Constance (or Clare as her mother called her, although we don't know why) is the only one at the receiving end of her mother's violent outbursts.
Without an ounce of self pity Constance tells the reader of the suffering that she endured. In a very matter of fact way she describes how frequent punches to the head, vicious blows to the stomach, excruciating nipple twisting and emotionally tormenting name calling were the daily norm. No child wants to hear that they are ugly, especially not coming from their own mother. Yet it's something that Constance had to listen to time and time again (which is obviously where the title of the book comes from) as well as other horrible names and expletives. There's no wonder that she suffered from night time incontinence into her late teens. Without doubt caused by a nervous disposition which formed as a result of her mothers actions. A vicious circle because having a bed wet accident was cruelly punished by more horrific beatings.
Whilst reading the book it's quite easy to forget how many people actually lived in the house as most of Constance's siblings are hardly even mentioned - perhaps suggesting just how isolated this child felt at the time. Just two of her sisters play an active part in the storytelling...but not such an active part in helping or defending their sister. They seem to stand by and let it happen. Probably due to the fear of receiving the same treatment themselves.
Due to the nature of the book events are told from just one perspective and as a result I found that there's no depth to any of the 'characters' apart from Constance. We're therefore left with absolutely no understanding of the mother at all - apart from the fact that she's a complete bully. I would've liked to have gained a little more insight and perhaps understanding regarding the actions of some of the people in the book, particularly the mother herself and the sisters. But then if the author has never been given any form of explanation herself, how can she possibly begin to portray it in words? It's not like a fictional story where characters backgrounds are finally revealed to make everything fall in to place. We are therefore left with quite a few loose ends that remain, well, loose.
It's so hard to comprehend how this woman can treat her child in such an appalling manner. And how can she possibly feel so little love and so much hatred towards one child in particular? It just doesn't make sense and results in an uncomfortable read at times.
Scattered throughout the book Constance does recall some lighter, even quite amusing moments but whilst raising a few laughs, these are only short lived and harsh reality soon hits home again. For example, the evening when she goes to bed to find that last nights smelly wet sheets have been put back on the bed where she is subsequently made to sleep. Of course, she was lucky if the bed was even there as it wasn't unusual to find that it had been completely removed, forcing her to sleep on the floor. And Christmas time when her brothers and sisters were treated to lovely new gifts, Constance found her presents to be the same doll and spinning top re-wrapped year after year.
It's disturbing to think that no one tried to intervene as it can't possibly have gone unnoticed. Her school must have realised that something was wrong when she turned up at school with an eye so badly swollen that she couldn't even open it...likewise when she virtually passed out due to concussion but yet simply refused to go home - the first place a child would want to be if they were feeling unwell. A lot of readers have come to the conclusion that because social services were never involved then it can't possibly be a true story. I'm not of the same opinion though - if there were ten other children in the household who seemed to be fit and healthy, why would the mother's abilities be doubted?
The writing style of 'Ugly' isn't exactly fabulous and by no means ground-breaking. Despite the experiences of Constance there is a surprising calmness to the narration which is written with a childish innocence and way of expressing things. The fact that it is written from a child's viewpoint means that it is very basic in its wording. It reads like a list at times when she describes her routine of getting home from school, doing all the chores such as cleaning and hoovering, putting the washing on, preparing the dinner, then completing her homework. This is sometimes fairly repetitive but it emphasizes just how monotonous her childhood was. The highlight of each day, more often than not being the school dinner she received.
Something that also strikes me with this book is that it almost seems to be told without feeling and I know this resulted in harsh criticism by many who felt this lack of passion was a bad point. I do agree that there's no emotion to grasp onto as such and this gives a sense that Constance is somewhat detached from that part of her life...a kind of numbness towards it all. But who can blame her? I think it simply acts as punctuation to the feelings of the author.
An endearing quality found within the pages is the amazing strength of character that shines through and the author's sense of dignity that most certainly prevails. In fact, the overall tone of the book has an underlying determination, clearly showing that Constance did not want to give her mother any form of satisfaction by getting upset and even being quite defiant at times. This could sometimes be seen as being deliberately provoking but I see it as quite simply as the actions of a little girl being very brave in trying to stand her ground because she is fed up of the way she is being treated.
After reading the book I decided to do a bit of research on the web and it turns out that not one person has come forward and admitted that Constance is telling the truth in her book. Some of her siblings are said to be angry that their mother has been portrayed in this way and the mother herself? Well, now in her 70's, she denies all claims and insists that she never abused her daughter.
Many members of the general public believe that 'Ugly' is a pack of lies but I don't agree with that. Writing a book like this would be far too extreme and damaging if it were completely untrue and I think that its harrowing content is an honest reflection of Constance's upbringing. It provides an inspiring story of a little girl forced to grow up much too quickly. Her experiences have only fuelled her ambitions to achieve over the years and she's living proof that you really can succeed if you put your mind to it, despite any obstacles that may have stood in your way.
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Cover price: £6.99 (but now reduced on Amazon to £4.89. I got my copy from a charity shop for 50p)
My Manager had bought this book and had leant it to her sister (who also works with me) and once she had finished it the Manager could not be bothered to walk home with it so leant it to me.
I only decided to read the book because I had read other people's review on the book sometime ago and thought it would be in an interesting read.
This story is an autobiography about a young girl called Clare who has a very hard childhood due to her mother. Her mother abuses her both mentally and physically. Clare is not an only child though she has a number of brothers and sisters, though the boys get treated like little princes while all the girls are forced into cooking and cleaning for the rest of the household.
Clare does not discover her real name of Constance until she goes to university but the main story is based in the 1960s while Clare was growing up.
However none of the other children seem to receive the same kind of abuse as Clare. Her Mother drives Clare to the point that she is so nervous of being attacked by either her Mother or her Mothers boyfriend that she is constantly wetting the bed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though I spent most of the time being angry with her Mother, Brothers and Sisters. The Mother for doing what she did and angry with the Brothers and Sisters who do absolutely nothing to help Clare. If anything at times they actually caused more hassle for Clare.
Regardless of the attacks Clare receives her courage is most inspiring, how in the face of all the abuse she can remain focused on what she wants to achieve out of life. The suffering and hard ship Clare goes through should be a reminder to us all that no matter how hard we think our own life is, it is nothing compared to what she endured for years.
This may be a true story but the characters in the book are written well and give a true likeness of what was happening and how Clare felt throughout all these terrible times. Even though the author is telling her story the other characters are describe good as well and complete and utter fear can be felt throughout the book.
This book can be bought from amazon.co.uk new for £12.99 (Hardcover) or £3.89 (paperback). I borrowed the hardcover version so there are 310 pages to the book. I would recommend this book, as I was not able to put it down. I spent most the time wanting desperately for Clare to be saved or for her to tell her Mother where to go.
Recommend, thanks for reading.
Brilliant book Constance ... you have my remosre and I praise your bravery at sharing your childhood with us....may we all learn how precious children's little lives are. May our society never overlookd the need to help those children who may suffer systematical abusive homes.....They do Exsist!!!!!
Wonderful girl and this book is a must for all to read.... if we have some unwanted skeletons in our past this book will show you how to turn them into and living Grace.
I picked this book up from the book clubs that go round workplaces. I hadnt heard of the book but it looked interesting this was purely from the front cover, and as usual, there are always special offers available. I thought to myself, if it isnt a good read it hasnt cost me a lot of money. How wrong could I be? A good read? This was an amazing read and well worth any amount of money.
The blurb on the back cover didnt upset me, it just make me interested in finding out more about the mother of Constance Briscoe (or Clare as she was known throughout the novel). Without trying to sound harsh, you know what to expect when you pick up a book of this nature, and in some cases they do reach out to you, disturb you and stimulate your thoughts. This book was no exception and more so that some I have read. I actually read this over 2 days something I can only do if I am so involved in the characters lives and in this case I was, especially with the relationship between Constance and her teacher Miss K.
For those unaware of how the book is compiled, Constance Briscoe provides an account of her childhood (up to 18 years of age). I liked the way it was written from her perspective, not addressing the abuse from her now adult eyes, but saying how it was then and it feels like the present tense. The family life was an interesting set up, the images I had of her mother were of a big, vibrant Jamaican woman (Carmen) and I had an image of her father (George) being quite intimidated by Carmen and this may have been the initial attraction. The way she describes her mother as being slim and stunningly beautiful is quite intriguing, with regards how further down the page she simply states ugly, because this is how has been told she is.
By not being called Constance in the novel, and being called Clear, Clearie and Clare it is no wonder she became confused as to who she was. Especially in light of how the brothers had such an easy life within the family. The brothers are very rarely mentioned and it is easy to forget how many people actually lived in the house and it soon became a story of Constance and her two sisters. It was interesting to see the relationship the children had with Denise, an adopted sister, especially as she was deemed to be the outsider of the family by the father (who wouldnt acknowledge her) when in fact it was Constance who was made to feel like the outsider.
Reading her own interpretation of her childhood was thought provoking, making me stop and think about myself, what I would do if I saw a child present him/herself to me in some of the states Constance did. I realised, especially as a teacher, it can all too often just be easier to ignore what you see as many of the teachers at her school did as they did not want to get a bad reputation for the school. Miss K, her teacher was different and Constance gained so much from this relationship, as did Miss K. Had this been a fiction book the author could have explored Miss K more, but it isnt and instead I felt I read a wonderful piece of writing that never came across as her feeling sorry for herself or writing it for a specific purpose.
I would have liked to have read another 1 or 2 chapters where I could have found out a little about the adult Constance, although this may have prevented it from being such a wonderfully written account of how the child Constance saw the actions of the adults and other children around her.
An amazing book, one that should be read even if you do not normally like or entertain novels of this nature.
The oxford dictionary defines the word UGLY as unpleasant to look at-unattractive, so I guess at some point in all our lives we have all been guilty of calling something or somebody ugly.
For all the mothers out there who may read this, could you or would you ever call your child ugly?
No? somehow i didn't think you would
This review is about a book i have just read and it moved me so much i actually cried whilst reading it.
The title of the book is "UGLY" and is written by a truly remarkable lady called Constance Briscoe and it is the true story about her loveless childhood at the hands of her mother Carmen Briscoe, who in my opinion was not fit to look after a goldfish let alone 6 children.
Constance aka Clare was born on May 18th 1957, her mother Carmen was from Jamaica, she is described as being very slim and attractive, more like a film star than a mother, her father Goerge was also from Jamacia, he is described as being quite short for a man but a dapper dresser.
Between them they had 6 children of 4 girls and 2 boys, and one adopted daughter.
Clare was the 3rd child and was the child who was beaten, kicked, punched on a regular basis by her mother, there really seems to be no reason as to why clare was beaten so severley by her mother, the only reason i found whilst reading this book was her mother simply hated the poor child.
Clare suffered with the common childhood problem of bedwetting and suffered such severe violence as a result of this, her mother would beat her around the head with a shoe and scream at her that she was a dirty black whore who stunk of piss, and then make her repeat these words and promise not to wet the bed.
If the bed was wet the following morning the sheets were taken from the bed and left in the wardrobe along with the nightdress, and clare was forced to sleep on them even though they were still damp and smelley, this was one of her mothers cruel forms of punishment.
Another form of punishment was to grab clare by her nipples, her mother would pinch and squeeze them as hard as she could all the while screaming abuse at her.
This really did make me cry because as a child i often wet in my bed and could not imagine my mother being so bloody cruel and heartless towards her own flesh and blood.
At one point clare actually decribes the time when she went to social services and asked to be put into a childrens home, when social services told her to go home she did, only to drink from a bottle of bleach, as the bottle said kills all known germs dead and her mother had often told her she was a germ.
I wont go into the full story of this book as i really urge you to read it for yourselves, what i will say is, clare as she is known in the book despite being abused both phyically and emotionally by her mother survived, and went on to become a barrister in 1983, she also become one of the first women to sit as a judge in this country.
After reading this book, i actually gave my mum a kiss and told her how much i loved her and thanked my lucky stars that my mum was not some cruel, bitter twisted bitch.
Its a harrowing story with a remarkable end, so if your looking in your local book store and see this book on the shelf, buy it.
Avaliable in hard back and paper back, published by Hodder&Stoughton Ltd 338 Euston Road London NW1 3BH