Review: The Nipper by Charlie Mitchell

posted in: Book Reviews | 50

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 couldn’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 it’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 doesn’t detract from the book. On a visual front, it’s quite refreshing to have generic down-at-heel packaging and a disclaimer that the picture on the front ISN’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 don’t know the American publishing schedule for The Nipper and they may change the title, but it’s definitely worth reading as a complete story, so, maybe get it from the library if think you’re only going to read/handle it, the once. In my case, I did borrow it but like Criminal by Caspar Walsh, it’s on the buy list for the future.

Check the existing information for it here;

Amazon UK Page

– CBG

50 Responses

  1. derek conway

    picked this book up and never put it down until i finished it.
    coming from dundee and having lived in 48 st. fillans road in the 70’s i was totally shocked to think
    true dundonians would let things like this go unchecked.
    charlie must have went through a terrible existence for one so young and for this to go on under
    peoples noses doesn’t bear thinking about.
    to be able to tell his tale with the sadness in his life and also the hilarity of genuine funny incidents
    made this one of the best reads ever.
    p.s. i’m a dundee fan , united are keech!

  2. charlie mitchell

    Hi Derek

    i have just read the review you left on my book and would like to thank you for your kind words. i could go on forever about the ins and outs and doom and gloom of my childhood but the only thing i would like to say to you is, you have just about made me soil my undercoms with the keech coment. my cousin was working in Newcastle years ago as the area manager of a lorry firm that delivered fish and he would pretend to be serious to the english office girls, telling them one of the lorries had turned over and covering the m6 in bridies and keech. they would then phone head office in glasgow in a right state panicing and telling the directors what had happened. your comment brought it back to me, so cheers and thanks again for the review. p. s dundee fc are a toly on a lolly pop stick haha. all the best mate.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Charlie,just at the end of yr book which made me laugh,cry and wonder how anyone could be so cruel. You are an admirable man and I hope that toy are now living a happy wonderful life that you so truly deserve. I came from an alcoholic childhood though my father was emotionally abusive. I wish you all the best. Stay happy,stay inspired,stay toy Charlie. Xxxx Sue from Australia

  3. John Higgins

    This is a brilliant book, what makes it more interesting to me is the fact that I am originally from St Mary’s and I actually think I know the author, we’re about the same age and obviousy ‘mucked aboot’ the same area. The story is the complete opposite to my childhood, which was spent in the bosum of a close, loving, working class family so I don’t recognise the St Mary’s that Charlie lived in, I thought it was a great place to grow up and have very fond memories of my chilhood there. I do recognise that Charlie was obviously looking at life through an abused kid’s eyes so it’s little wonder his memories of the place are bleak, I also recognise that alcohol abuse was and still is a scourge within the Scottish working classes and that domestic violence was common. What really horrifies me about reading this book is the fact that nobody stepped into do anything about the abuse this kid was clearly recieving on a daily basis, neighbours must have heard what was going on and chose to do sod all about it, unbelievable, but it obviously still goes on as the Baby Brandon case proves, this kind of cowardice and apathy really frustrates me!! The author’s humour shines through throughout his harrowing story proving that the human spirit is indomitable. Definitely one of the best books i’ve read in a long time!!

  4. jackie kirk

    couldnt put the book down i too was brought up in st marys and have lived in st nicholas place for 21 years the story about bonnies pups and the fire makes me think i know who the family are and am horrified to think that this was going on and no one did anything to help wee charlie im glad he can still look at parts of his childhood with humour but feel disgusted at the abuse he went through all the best for the future charlie and away the dees xx

  5. Gary Duncan

    Bought on a whim and once I started reading it, well, I simply could not put it down. Sometimes, just sometimes you get the feeling of wanting to turn page-after-page with a book. This is one of them. Like many Dundonians, we love to see the town portrayed in books and film/TV. Dundee is shades of light and dark. I have to say, Charlie, that amidst the gruesome squallor and ‘bastardry’ (if there is such a word!) of your upbringing is a balance of humour and survivability. Yes, I did grow up in Dundee and the language, sights, sounds and attitudes all come back in this excellent book. Well done, Charlie. When I write mine, I’ll send you a copy. GD

  6. Michelle Flatman

    I have just finished reading “The Nipper” givin to me by my mum. We only like to read true stories. I can honestly say that this one disturbed me more than anything i have ever read. But I must also say that I literally had tears of laughter poring down my face at some of the patter Charlie used in his book. One minute I was crying in sadness, the next I was in stitches.
    I was born in Paisley in 1977 but immigrated to Australia in 1989 when I was 11. All through the book I kept thinking that this little boy Charlie was only about a year or 2 older than me and to think that at the same time all this was happening to him. The book also brought back a lot of nice memories for me because some of the sayings reminded me so much of how people used to talk there.
    I find Charlie to be an absolute inspiration in everyway possible. Thankyou so much for sharing your life with me. x

  7. jenny buchan

    i have just finished reading this book and was absoultly astounded that this kind of thing went on without the word of help from anyone. i was brought up in downfield not far from St Mary’s and brought up totaly differently, but being 3 years younger than Charlie i know first hand that these things went on to a few of my friends who also lived in St Mary’s and no one at that time said anything either (neither did they) it wasn’t untill a few years ago i discovered a lot of these things too my closest friends. good luck in the future charlie

  8. dawn graham

    i was given this book yesterday morning i didnt put it down until i finished last night , when i first started to read it, i thought no i will have to stop but continued wanting to know what the future held for you , your a survivor , may your life be long and full of love.

  9. elaine

    Thank you Charlie Mitchell for allowing me to share your childhood experiences in your wonderful book..I could not put it down. I live in dundee and experienced life with an alcoholic father.. I, like you have turned out to be the opposite to what he was like and although the memories freak me out at times, I have learned to tell myself that he is the one that missed out on having a great family and not the other way around. I want to thank you for making me laugh one minute then cry the next. I feel ashamed that no one was there for you when you needed them. You are an inspiration to others and I wish you and your family a healthy and happy life.

  10. Jo

    I have read this book in days…which is a miracle for me because, as much as I like books, I am so busy raising my young family that, unless a book grabs me instantly, I hardly ever finish a book. This book is hardly a pleasant subject but I admire Charlie Mitchell’s honesty, wit and no nonsense approach. The strength of his spirit is truly inspirational. I can’t imagine the hell Charlie went through and it pains me to think that there are kids out there now suffering. Happy that Charlie now has his lovely wife and young family which he’ll treasure more than the majority of us do….although, after reading this book, I am grateful for my average upbringing and certainly appreciate the fact that I always knew I was loved and cared for. It’s even made me cut down on the nagging with my three young sons…although it can’t last, ha, ha!

    A truly incredible book for everyone to read and think about. I have neighbours who are raving alcoholics and their daughter is 7 years old. They worship the group she walks on but she has no limits and is out there at school…just like Charlie. I doubt it’s as easy to blag through life these days and wonder how it will all turn out for her. Her Mum is more stable than the Dad and the daughter is well fed, clean and tidy but, at the end of the day, they are still failing her as parents. They are not physically abusive. She’s like my substitute daughter and she’s often around here for tea. Even my own partner tells me not to get involved as he says I’ll be tarred with the same brush! People, eh?

  11. Dundee Lass

    Just finished reading your book, what an incredible person you are. I also grew up in Dundee with alcohol playing a major part in my childhood. A father who beat up his family for no reason. A father, who, like yours, liked everyone to think he was funny and smart, but in reality, was nothing more than a coward and a bully. But Charlie, like you, I can proudly say, my siblings and myself have taken the best possible path in life and made our mother and children so proud of us. Thank you for making me laugh and cry throughout the book. God Bless you Charlie Mitchell, you are 1 special guy.

    May you continue to walk with your head held high..

  12. donna

    A wonderful story with a truly happy ending. I hope you and your family have a fantastic life. I too experienced life in Dundee with a violent alcoholic father. The book was fantastic and took a lot of courage for you to speak up. you are definately an inspiration to others and a true survivor. I wish you all the very best for the future Charlie.

  13. Margaret

    Hi Charlie, Just finished reading your incredible, if not deeply disturbing book, and like other readers, I simply couldn’t put it down. My childhood experience also included ‘violence’ and ‘alcohol’, and at the time I just thought this behaviour was normal. It is not!!! No excuses, alcohol or otherwise. It is pure EVIL! Fortunately, you have a terrific spirit and indeed have the love of your wife, child, mum, brothers and close friends. Your child will most definately make the biggest impact on your life. Nothing else compares..That unconditional love you will feel will just blow you away.
    Anyway, I wish for you and your loved ones, good health and happiness, always. Take care.

  14. karen

    Fantastic book, would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read. Unbelievable what Charlie went through. A very brave man who deserves the very best in life.

  15. charlie mitchell

    hola amigos
    i would like to start by saying thanks alot for all your great reviews and kind words. i hope i never brought back too many bad memories for the people that were in the same situation as i was. i supose it must be hard too for people with normal backgrounds reading stories like ours, and i doubt many of them can get there heads around it. i mean some of the things that went on back then, and even nowadays, make my childhood look like a weekend at the waltons. dont get me wrong i know my childhood was a nightmare with him, but i also had some cracking times when i was out the house. i kind of adapted and tried to adjust my brain to cope through humour and that worked for me, it kept me sane, well a few people that know me would beg to differ but thats my opinion and im sticking to it. some people on the other hand are not built to cope or deal with bad things, well they think there not. i believe 1 million percent that every single person on the planet has a fight inside them, a strength that they might not know about yet, that will to survive that kicks in naturally when you switch off. and if they are rock bottom or depressed to the point of no return or feel like things couldn’t possibly get any worse. they are right! things always get better when you feel that low. the only person who can turn it around though is you. you make your own destiny. keep smiling and my tip for today is never eat yellow snow.
    ps i have a 13 month old girl now who is as mad as a box of frogs. she already has me wraped around her finger. nickname taz
    hasta logo muchachos y senoritas

  16. charlie mitchell

    i forgot to mention, look out for a new one of mine comming out next year as ive almost finished it. the title is….. A BIG BUCKET OF KARMA. its a feel good comedy about a robber who is literaly the most usless theif on the plannet but he gets away with it for a decade, the book has twists and turns of how he ends up with this life. the book is also packed with real historical events and a bit of a history lesson/load of waffle. it will be my first attempt at fiction so fingers crossed.

    all the string vest.
    charlie

  17. Margaret

    Look forward to …A BIG BUCKET OF KARMA.. just reading the title made me smile..
    Lots of love and best wishes to TAZ…

  18. another survivor fae dundee

    Id like to take this opportunity to wish you, your family and all you other survivors a very merry christmas and a happy new year. ALL THE BEST!!!!!!!

  19. charlie mitchell

    merry christmas to all and have a cracking new year, lets see how many people can stick to a new year resolution. ive never lasted more than 4 days. all the best!!!!!!!!

  20. Teeny

    I’ve just finished reading “The Nipper” and reading the comments left by others. I come from a wee town just north of Dundee and have to say that although it was tough having to read some of the things that happened, it made me laugh to read the conversations written in the Dundee accent. It is a fantastic book which has you hooked until you finish (which generally doesn’t take long, as it’s impossible to put down!), I feel like I know the characters so well, although I’ve never met them.

    Charlie Mitchell and others like him are truely amazing individuals to be able to cope with what happened in their childhood and to be able to move on and make a good life for themselves and their loved ones. Although I feel sympathy for what you have all had to cope with, I admire you so much for coming through it and managing to keep your sanity.

    I wish you and others like you all the best for the future and hope you have many happy years ahead of you.

    xx

  21. Bobo

    Just read your book in less than a day. Could not put it down. Your story is truely fasinating and heart warming. How you have turned your life around is amazing. Sophie sounds like a lovely lady. I have always said that life is what you make of it. Always look to the future and not the past, we can’t change things and more times than not the past gets in the way of the future, by holding you back.

    You really are an inspiration. Good luck with your life, you really are an amazing man. Enjoy quality family time xxxxx

  22. Julie

    The nipper the first book I’ve EVER managed to finish and in only 2 days the sadness and comic goings on had me gripped.
    I was truly heartbroken that a Father could treat his wee boy in such a way, But after reading this book maybe their is another side to people who may be out of control and I should be more understanding maybe they have a story to tell to.
    I was brought up a few miles from Dundee and Iam a year younger than Charlie, You think that your upbringing was hard then you read The Nipper and it brings it back into perspective (it was pretty damn good.)
    Charlie is an inspiration to everyone , When you think life’s getting tough just think back to this incredible book.
    Thank you so much for sharing your life with us.

  23. Alison

    Was brought up in St Edmund Tce. Your book has had a massive impact upon me as I now work for SWD. Why was nothing done for you. As a dog owner too your suffering with Bonnie reduced me to tears and sleepless nights as I read on. My husband removed your book from me at bed time as I could not sleep. God only knows how and what made you survive such a monster. I admire you so much X

  24. jackie

    read this book, took less than 6 hours, hard to put down, have so much respect for you and sophie too,
    i know it would be hard to imagine being in your shoes but you wrote everything so realistically that it
    brought me to tears,one can tell how accurate this is, i take my hat off to you, sophie and taz. god knows
    how you survived but thank god you did because obviously taz is going to be soooo lucky, lv to you all j x

  25. ann

    No matter how hard life is there is no excuse, this was evil child abuse, and the poor wee dog bonnie suffered as well, it broke my heart reading this book, we should all be vigilant of any signs of violence toward children. God love you charlie and your wee family, continue getting on with your life son, you deserve the very best. from ann, belfast

  26. Lisa Sheppard

    Dear Charlie Mitchell. My son read your book and then passed it to me. I had not read a book for 14 years. It has taken me a week to read and I too have found it difficult to put down. Tonight my crying woke my husband from his sleep. I want to tell you that I am so happy you are now having the life you deserve. You are a remarkable person and I feel sure you will be a wonderful husband to your Sophie and the best dad to your little one. I wish you Love Luck and Happiness throughout your life. Love from Lisa in Essex.

  27. Caroline Stephen

    Hi – I picked this book up in a second hand bookshop in Dundee (Albert Street) I was surprised to see that it did not look like it had been read!! although I am not from Dundee have lived here since 1992, I thouroughly enjoyed reading the book and admire your courage to get through the terrible childhood you had. This is second book like this I have read in last few months, first being “The Kid” by Kevin Lewis and myself coming from a very happy home I had become quite “blinkered” in the fact that this type of abuse was going on in the 70’s & 80’s which is same as when I grew up. I shall certainly be recommmending this book to friends of mine. Thank you for such a good read and I wish you well through the rest of your life.

  28. Barbara Burleigh

    Dear Charlie..Bought your book in Canberra last week..Wasn’t sure when I first started reading…but not long before I couldn’t put it down. Dreadfully sad story with a beautifully unexpected happy ending. You are an inspiration and should be so proud. No one ever deserves what you lived through.. my heart breaks at the thought of it. I wish you all the love and happiness you so deserve with you amazing wife Sophie and wee girl Taz…All the best with your new book. When will we get it in Australia? Love from Barbara .Yass NSW x

  29. Michelle Ledger

    Charlie, such an amazing and inspiring person! Incredible story, I can only mirror again the other comments you have received on this forum. Fate is a wonderful thing how amazing bumping into Sofie in Dublin of all places! Im still in tears as, apart from the dreadful abuse, I cant help thinking how terrible you must have felt and still must do over your amazing best friend Bonnie. She was obvioulsy sent to help you through some difficult times; how dreadful she was also too a victim. I wonder, did you ever get to know what really happended to her? I would love to know!! Iread so many child abuse books as it just seems to be so uplifting to here how people can find a way to move on from such dreadful experiences, and just seems to put all my everday worries into prespective. Charlie, you deserve a fantastic life and I am so pleased you have a lovley wife, child, mother and brothers, and so many good friends from your past. I cannot find you on facebook, are you on there? I would love to put a face to a book! Rest in peace dearest dearest Bonnie, the most amazing dog I have heard about. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  30. Claire

    Have just finished this book. Its truly shocking the years of abuse you suffered Charlie. Jock was evil to the core. Don’t want to call him ‘your dad’ as he ain’t worthy of that title. So glad he finally got his commupance! I am so happy you met your Sophie. If anybody deserves happiness its you. You are a true inspiration to us all. Your mum must be so proud of you. All the best to you, Sophie and your wee lass. xxxxxx

  31. pamela

    hi charlie im just reading your book just now should be finished soon and only started reading it last night. I just wanted to say that i think you are a real strong individual and should be proud of yourself for being able to get through your nightmare. Sometimes you really make me laugh when reading the things you come out with you have a great sense of humour and im sure you have made lots of people laugh. Im not from Dundee infact never been there but been close did do some berry picking in my younger days in blairgowrie im sure you have heard of it i have great memories there some of the best laughs ever. I hope you are happy now i really do and wish you all the luck and happiness in the world you really do deserve it. well i wont bore you any longer lol im away to finish your book.

    p.s keep your sense of humour your amazing xxx

  32. lynda

    i have just finished your book charlie and i could not put it down from start to finish, i am so sorry for what you went through and that no one helped you, but i sincerely feel that it was the experiences you went through with your father and the other things in your teens that made you the wonderful loving father and husband you are today, by the way i would love to know if you and your wife had a boy or girl, either way you will certainly be a far better parent that your own father ever was, you are a brave man charlie and thankyou for sharing your personal life with us readers, i wish you all the best in life as you deserve it……

  33. mandy

    hi charlie i grew up in dundee my mum was from st marys iam a wee bit older than you but alcohol played a big part in a lot of familys life’s luckily we escaped quite lightly.i read your book in an afternoon it made me so mad, happy ,angry you where so brave iam glad you had bonnie but despise jock for her torture may yor life be full pf happiness joy and sunshine god bless you all your amazing xxx

  34. annette

    Dear Charlie I have just started reading your book and I have already cried multiply times I hope the life U R living now is a world away from that dark, horrible place it has made me appriciate the simple things in life which money cannot buy. Your story proves just how much the world has changed throught time, unfortunatly there are still some youth of todays society living in an un healthy, abuseve enviroment….. God Bless!!

  35. Carol Geekie

    I grew up in Dundee and as much as I feel for you Charlie, it makes me a wee bit annoyed that you generalise that the alcohol and child beatings etc was the norm in Dundee.
    I grew up in Douglas and I had the most wonderful childhood.
    I don’t believe that the majority of people growing up in Dundee then or now were subjected to the abuse and alcohol related incidents.
    As I said I am truly sorry for what happened to you as a child and I am really pleased to see that you came though the other side and were able to document in a book your childhood. You certainly are a strong man.

  36. Katie

    The above comment makes me a wee bit annoyed, author is not generalising in the book he is writing of his personal experience and of the circle he grew up in, which unfortunately in his experience was not unheard of!!!!!!! Silly comment to make!
    I don’t usually read books on abuse as I often can not finish them, this book had me gripped from the moment I began reading! It certainly opened my eyes, and I felt all sorts of emotions while reading it, I can’t imagine ever closing my eyes and ears to the obvious signs of abuse you must have displayed as a child!! I shed a wee tear when I read the ways in which you’ve turned your life around!! You really are an inspiration and deserve nothing but admiration for all you have achieved and for turning out so well….against all odds!

  37. Angie

    I too grew up in Dundee and did have a violent childhood due to my fathers constant drinking and terrable mood swings, if I wasn’t getting a beating it would be Mum or the dog, I was able to understand what Charlie has gone through and applaud him for telling his story. I am very happy for him, now that he has now found true happieness. Once I started reading this book I couldn’t put it down. God bless.

  38. Belinda

    I have just been given this book by a friend and it was one of the first books i have read in a very long time but truely amazing was your book i have never felt so many emotions when reading befor and am honestly thankfull to Charlie that i got experience a small piece of his life through this book. I am from australia and so i did struggle with the language but non the less loved it and would just like to say “thankyou” Charlie for not ever giving up and can only hope that one day i could posses the will and determination to succeed at something like you have which has made you the person you are today. I hope your family life is one of joy and love and everything u dreamed it would be and cant wait to read your next book mate cheers so much for the inspiration!!!!

  39. Su

    What an amazing man you are Charlie, I cried, I laughed and I truly wanted to smash that poor excuse of a father’s face in,
    Its uplifting to know you’ve done well for yourself, you so easily could have ended up like that man… Good luck for the rest of your future.
    P.s I was shouting in my mind at you when you dumped Sophie, and was so happy when you found eachother again and married,
    You should have waited to write the book after your baby was born so you could tell your readers what you had xx

  40. Su

    Just read the rest of the reviews and found out you had a little girl, congratulations, quite a lot belated but I’ve only just read your book…
    Please write a follow up, all about your life now and your brothers and mom
    All the very best Love Su xx

  41. kathy (hull)

    just finished your book charlie can’t believe what your dad did to you and your dog,I couldn’t put the book down once i started reading it, I cried and i laughed and couldn’t sleep after reading it having nightmares. I wanted him to die for what he did to you and your family, i’m so glad you found happyness at last with sophie x

  42. kathy (hull)

    hiya! charlie just read your book once i picked it up i couldn’t put it down, can’t believe what that evil man did to you, your dog your mam and your brother I couldn’t sleep some nights kept thinking of what he did to you all of those years.I felt like giving him a good harding. im so glad you have finally found happiness with sophie. take care love kathy xx

  43. TG

    It brought back a lot of memories, not as bad as your beatings but an abusive 26 years with a drunken brut of a husband. I too survived and now try to help anyway I can, other victims to escape and deal with the mental scars left behind long after being free from the abuser. Well written with very funny parts that’ lift’ you out of the horror even if only briefly. So glad you settled, hope your happiness continues.

  44. Georgie Grant

    I’m the daughter of angie you know her very well I would like to just stay I hope you have got over your past but my mum sure hasn’t what you and your pal done to her 20 year ago and actually moved out of dundee after it and also going to her house and apologising did u forgot to mention about you abusing people in your book true what they say like father like son. What gives you any right to do something like that and have the cheek to publish a book about your sad life my mum was a young mother when you raped her. Your a hypocrite. You sicken me. I’ll look forward to your reply seen as this is the only way I can get in touch since you ran out of Dundee .

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