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A Lie About My Father Hardcover – 2 Mar 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (2 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224074873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224074872
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.7 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 677,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Burnside has published seven works of fiction and eleven collections of poetry, including his Selected Poems, published by Cape in 2006. His memoir, A Lie About My Father, was published in the same year to enormous critical acclaim, and was chosen as the Scottish Arts Council Non-Fiction Book of the Year and the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year.

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Review

"This account of a failed father-son relationship is written with extraordinary beauty and insight... His is a profound meditation on the life of the spirit, and the shadows we all carry in our hearts" (Bel Mooney The Times)

"Marvellously written scenes...few people write more hauntingly... His prose has a poet's delicacy and fine-honed precision" (Tim Jeal Daily Telegraph)

"Anyone who has read Gosse, Ackerley or Tobias Wolff will know that big books can be made about small-time fathers. It's a tribute to Burnside that he maps this same territory and prompts these comparisons while creating a story that is uniquely his" (Blake Morrison Guardian)

"This is a haunting read that will linger long after you close the pages of this book" (Michelle Stanistreet Express)

"Destined to become a classic of Scots childhood... A beautiful read, but also a brutal one" (Scotland on Sunday)

Book Description

A breathtakingly beautiful memoir of childhood.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Maybe it takes a poet like Burnside to open up this tricky relationship. With a lying, violent drunk of a father, most men walk away, stay away or do the opposite, face up with the same rage then spend a life as a carbon copy. At one stage, knife in hand, Burnside comes close, even starting into the same drowing, LSD instead of booze. But it's not the relationship, it's the act of writing it, that impresses me - a towering kind of compassion that tries to get beyond the anger and self-loathing, to find a point of human contact, something of dignity, in what can't be shed. There are fathers like this everywhere, just tweak the profile to fit. But few sons would or could deconstruct the damage to make something admirable of it. This memoir is a monument to the humanity of men, to the unhardening of hearts. Everyone should read it, preferably before having a son.
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Format: Paperback
John Burnside has written a remarkably courageous and deeply thoughtful book in this memoir of his father, who was abandoned as a baby and brought up in dire poverty in the lowlands of Scotland. Burnside is totally without sentimentality, yet his innate tenderness is never far from the surface, even though his relationship with his father was catastrophic.

Burnside's father was a drunkard, a liar and dissembler who ruled with threats and, later with violence. The lies came thick and fast - he lied about his origins, about his past life, and in the final analysis, about manhood - and it is a lie that so many men tell: that a man cannot own a true emotion; that he must not trust anyone; that he must be hard and unforgiving in order to survive. Why is this the story of so many unloving and unloved men? Burnside can't explain this, but what he does do is make it feel real.

As well as the story of his father, this book is also about Burnside's childhood, and what it led to as he grew up and left home. A dependency on psychotropic drugs and a life of drifting and falling - out of the world and into the imagination, and images and sensations are invoked to explain his own disaffections and self-damage. Sometimes the images are intensely beautiful and the writing seems to exist in its own time, beyond the limits of mere storytelling. Burnside is also a poet, and uses language to get behind events and beyond their mundanity to the core of sensations, feelings and events in order to say something profoundly universal about men and fatherhood. I found this brave book compelling reading.
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Format: Paperback
I found this fascinating, but horribly fascinating. It's a story of a desperate family, the father haunted by his past, surrendering to drink in the present - the mother holding things together but at a terrible cost - the children growing up, suffering, but somehow emerging as functional "normal" people.

It's written in a very easy and accesible style which accentuates the darkness of the story
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
With all the care and precision of his poetry, Burnside's book gently draws you into a story of human frailty; it explores how people learn to live with disappointment, describing that often felt and desperate urge to escape or hide away from problems and difficulties, the pain of caring about the people we love and the guilt we feel when we don't.

It's a beautifully told story exploring universal themes, whilst giving his very personal account. I found it almost impossible to put down, despite the often bleak subject matter, and some of the passages or details in it made me smile in wry recognition.

For anyone who has experienced the anguish of a parent who drinks or the childish frustration of repeated disappointment at a parent's failings, this will ring true. It's not a cheery book but it's not wholly sad either. What it is, though, is a beautiful exploration of a difficult childhood and adolescence, told exceptionally well.
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By A Customer on 27 Feb. 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you only ever read one memoir in your life, make sure it's this one. None of the usual self-indulgence, but plenty of evocative, beautiful recollection of the difficult and fractured relationship between a boy and his father. Thoroughly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It took several pages for me to sink into this very detailed but very poetic style of writing. The book is intensely moving the deeper into it you get. I was in tears for much of the ending and chose to read some passages several times over. Like a painting where each time you look at it you see more and different things. I think I can use the phrase 'blown away' honestly here. The book stayed with me and I with it for many weeks after finishing it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was brought up in the same town as the author (Cowdenbeath) and lived just about 10 doors down the street. Although slightly older, I remember the neighbours and locations he writes about. Also the beliefs and behaviour of the times - the miners the pubs. His writing is personal, accurate and brought back lots of memories. This is my second copy as I gave my first to a friend who now lives in Australia.
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