Monday, 24 August 2015

Book Review: Never a Hero to Me by Tracy Black

Synopsis: Tracy Black was only five years old when her mother was hospitalised for the first of many occasions, leaving Tracy in the care of her father. His behaviour, seemingly overnight, changed from indifferent to violently abusive and, for the next seven years, Tracy was sexually and physically abused by her father, his friends and her own brother. 

All of the men were in the British Armed Forces. Tracy's father compounded the abuse by sending her to baby-sit for his paedophile friends - whilst their own children slept in other rooms, these men would find excuses to leave later or return earlier than their wives in order to abuse her, with her own father's blessing. When she sought help and safety the doors were closed as the authorities closed ranks. 

In this shocking and compelling book, Tracy Black pieces together the jigsaw of a story that has haunted her for the past forty years. She reveals the horrific betrayal of trust perpetrated by men who were considered upstanding citizens and heroes. Tracy's tale reminds us all of the terrible ways in which paedophiles work and the secrets too many children are forced to carry alone. It is only now that she can tell her full story of recovery.

Review: My love for reading is the same as many of you, I suppose. I want to be thrown into a world of fantasy, of magic, of horror, of mystery. I rarely want to read a book that has elements of realism so potent and strong that the reading experience can actually become a harrowing one.

However, the overriding feeling left with me regarding Never a Hero to Me is its incredible power. It is hard to read in certain sections, but I tell you this - it is so well written you cannot help but flip through the pages.

The story of five year old Tracy Black will hit you harder than perhaps any fantasy character you have invested your time in. Why? Because little Tracy goes through things that no one should have to go through. You'll have already gotten an idea from the synopsis.

So whilst not an easy read, it is essential reading. People need to understand that the monster in this book does not have horns or carries a pitchfork. He's a hero to some, because Tracy's father is an Army man, and of course, there are many unsung heroes in the Forces and their sacrifice should always be appreciated.

The army fights an enemy, and in this case, Tracy's father is the enemy. He abuses her. At first, the abuse starts at the kind of level that instantly horrifies - but as this happens early on in the book, I suspected worse was to come. Even in my thoughts about how awful it might be, it was worse. I can't imagine how Tracy coped.

Oh, the story takes you through the years, but the main bulk of the book is Tracy from age five to age ten.

Her father has her just where he wants her. He almost makes the abuse of his own daughter reasonable, often citing 'You want your mother to be well, don't you? So you'll have to be a good girl.'

Yes. As children we are told to be good. But when abuse is the centre of your young life, and your feelings tell you that this is wrong on every level, what does good mean anymore?

This is a story that literally drags you through the pages. You feel Tracy's pain, confusion, resentment, and yet I began to cheer when I could see the start of her rebellion. A rebellion she should have never had to start.

Her father doesn't stop there. He uses the mother's 'condition' as a reason to punish Tracy. I found myself getting increasingly annoyed with the mother, who seemed oblivious to the abuse her own daughter was suffering.

At the same time, Tracy's brother seems virtually impervious to blame. Both parents - especially the mother, lavish him with praise, whilst Tracy is treated no better than something you'd put in the bin.

Not only are we taken through Tracy's life, we are taken through several countries. When in Germany, things start to turn for the better, and there are signs Tracy may finally be able to defeat her tormentor. She just needed somebody to listen.

The cover is very striking. An innocent, beautiful looking child, but there is so much emotion and angst in that face, if one looks closely. So my congratulations to the team behind the book cover.

As ever, a book stands or falls on its content. Tracy Black has delivered a hard hitting tome which in its 300 pages deliver more than many longer books.

Uncompromisingly graphic, it may upset some, but the world isn't always butterflies and bunny rabbits.

I can't remember a book exhausting me as much as this one. It will leave you absolutely floored, and I have to say, the last two chapters are the real treasure of Never a Hero to Me.

We often see those lists - 1000 books to read before you die, and so on. This book needs to be on that list, and yours. Do not miss it.