Look, before we start let’s get something straight: I adore Tom Allen and I’m not going to have a bad word said about him. We good? Good.
I listened to Tom’s book via Audible during my daily swim because swimming is great but incredibly boring and by some divine coincidence the first part of the book is about – SWIMMING! 🏊♀️ My only complaint is that it’s hard to swim underwater when you’re snorting with laughter, so thanks for that bit about the water slide and the wave machine, Tom 🙄
No Shame is Tom’s recollection of his early life in Bromley. A normal kid in a normal place. But it’s not quite that simple. It’s a book filled with feelings of self-doubt, vulnerability, bewilderment, confusion and that ever-present shame, and narrated by the man himself you really feel the nuance of his words leaping through your headphones and burrowing into your heart.
There are so many things that Tom talks about that made me think ‘Yes! Me too!’ which was a little unexpected as we come from very different backgrounds, but not that different it would seem. The eccentric little boy dressing as a Victorian gentleman rang a particularly loud bell with me as I was the weird little only child who used to dress up in bridesmaid dresses and swan around our terraced council house pretending to be a Tudor Lady any time dress up was mentioned. I suppose I can identify with the need to escape the enforced mediocrity – to feed your creativity and be yourself, however hard and scary that may be. Vive la différence!
Tom’s early realisation that he wasn’t quite the same as his peers was a bit of a slow burner. His journey into the world of life as a gay teen, turning adult is sensitive, heartbreakingly sweet and eventually, self-aware. Falling in love with unsuitable boys at the drop of a hat, even chasing one to Uni for a naughty weekend, despite them trying their hardest to put him off. He doesn’t see the brush off because he doesn’t want to, but in hindsight he knew it for what it was. It’s every one of us who has agonised over someone they really fall for who doesn’t return the sentiment.
Tom’s holiday with his ‘Aunt’ in the US was one of the high points for me – I could just imagine him trundling around the East Coast imagining himself in Queer as Folk USA and ending up in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
I could write a lot more about this book, but I won’t because I don’t need to. It’s fabulous and funny, and Tom Allen is the perfect narrator. Buy it! (or if pennies are tight, borrow it from your local digital library service for free!)