Review: The Nipper by Charlie Mitchell
Charlie Mitchell starts off his physical/mental abuse survival memoir with a bite-sized education for people outside Scotland of the world of Dundee, almost 30 years back. Much of the speech is phonetically written so you may find it easier to imagine a Scottish overall narrator to the book (or Mel Gibson doing his Braveheart accent). Once you do that, all speech in the book becomes easier to understand.
The book is routinely horrific when describing the alcoholism, violence and mental cruelty and you find yourself reading and thinking it couldnâ€™t get worse, and then it does, over and over again in chapter after chapter. From an early age the author seemed able to analyse his father, know his moods and routines, and survive as best he could up to the age of 16 when he leaves and the abuse stops. As we all know on this network his problems do not end at that point, but Mitchell charts his early adulthood in an edited manner, sticking to the exact events when he worked outside the UK, his meeting with a British public figure/sort-of celebrity and the earliest spark to his present relationship. He also knows himself very well and itâ€™s clear that he has made peace with the past.
As with all abusive childhoods, even with this level of violence this kid, as they do, still found time to have some fun. Mitchell points out the peaceful and tender and lighter moments in his first 16 years though they were rare. The humour ranges from high comedy down to gallows. Whilst you are well immersed into Scottish life at that time thanks to the writing, the best part of the book is the camerarderie of all the victims as they become teenagers at the same high school and compare notes over their various forms of abuse going on in their homes, without judgement and with an element of peer support that, as far as modern-day England is concerned, has definitely fallen by the wayside. This contrasts with the adults who refuse to get involved and leave the kids to suffer their fates. The author appears not to have had therapy thanks to his support from friends, siblings and stepfamily, but that doesnâ€™t detract from the book. On a visual front, itâ€™s quite refreshing to have generic down-at-heel packaging and a disclaimer that the picture on the front ISNâ€™T the author as a child. Hopefully that means British publishers are toning down the annoying heartstrings technique to sell books with powerful stories.
I donâ€™t know the American publishing schedule for The Nipper and they may change the title, but itâ€™s definitely worth reading as a complete story, so, maybe get it from the library if think youâ€™re only going to read/handle it, the once. In my case, I did borrow it but like Criminal by Caspar Walsh, itâ€™s on the buy list for the future.
Check the existing information for it here;