Don’t Tell Mummy: A True Story of the Ultimate Betrayal

by Toni Maguire

Read time: about 7 minutes

Betrayal is a mean deed. It particularly refers to the act which leaves people you trust in a black hole where you can’t find the same emotions for them again. This is worse when the one who betrays is one’s own mother. There are many victims that are coming out openly to address the issue of Child abuse. A book is said to be the best platform to put all the demons aside and start afresh. This is what the author has tried to do while writing the book. Has she managed to forgive her mother or not is questionable but she has definitely made others aware.

In the book she recollects the nightmares that those days with her parents were. She has successfully managed to put her feelings on paper, bare naked. A society which further blames the victim for such acts, it takes sheer bravery take a step and tell the world about it. It is also a mirror to the society which calmly blames little girls for not coming out with the truth, using phrases like “oh! She must have enjoyed it”. For this deed alone the author deserves respect.

Cover page

The cover page is an interesting composition. It is not very different from the other books in the same genre. The author has taken a safe approach. As in if someone is looking for a book in the particular genre then he might let go of the safe play.

On the contrary the cover page does not help to make the book stand out. Maybe it is time for authors to be bold with the covers too.


“Gradually I had come to see myself through the eyes of others, someone to be ignored to such an extent that they would eventually disappear. I was someone so tainted that others feared that by even recognizing my existence they too would be sullied.”

As it happens in most of the cases, the author was throughout blamed and cursed for the destiny that she had brought to her family. They despised her for what she had turned her father into. All through her life the author’s state of mind shifts from pitying herself and the fundamental logic that the six year old girl could hardly have anything to do with what her father made her suffer through.

The author struggles to find the firm ground to hold, continuously losing herself to depression. She also tries to change personalities hoping to put the ghost of her past behind but it keeps haunting her back to the present. Toni here is narrating her own story, earlier called Antoinette, she is visiting her own past trying to better understand her mother.

The author has done an exemplary work in describing her own life. Her recollections fused with good writing brings the little Antoinette back for us to understand her better.


“What I felt was deeper than loneliness; it was a feeling of being alien to everyone in the world. In the later years, when he went to a family wedding, of which there were several, and I was never invited I didn’t question it. I accepted the fact that I was not wanted. I never commented on the unfairness of it. I knew that collectively their minds were made up; there was no going back, for they had banished me from their hearts, but not him. I was even excluded from my grandmother’s funeral. Once she had loved me and I her. All that was taken away from me by his actions, not mine, and my mother never spoke of it. She just accepted it.”

The book is an account of life of Toni from the childhood she can remember to right now where she is a business woman. She mother is dying in a hospice. As Toni remembers her life, she has come to terms with the wrong doings of her father that has subjected her to a life through hell. There is a sad acceptance in her narration. The only thing that she has not understood yet is why her mother never came for her rescue all these years.

The whole book is a collection of events that shaped Toni’s life. She recollect the events from her childhood to the present day. The incidents are enough to agitate someone out of their mind. More than talking about the father who was worse than a monster, the author talks about the hostility of her mother towards her and how it made her feel.

Toni recounts her life through the troubled school life, the unforeseen pregnancy and a near fatal abortion. The depression that caused her to attempt suicide is mind numbing. The content is filled with sadness which refused to let go.


The book is written in first person since the author describes her own life. There is a bit of confusion in the beginning when she separates herself from antoinette of the past, addressing herself as ‘she’. But it is clearer as the story proceeds. The narration is filled with grief. It is felt throughout the book, like a constant cloud of dust. The narration is plain but it is backed by the painful incidents which are enough to agitate anyone off their mind.

Good points

The concept of the book itself is distinct. The author here does not recount her life to judge the father who was an animal to her nor is she seeking any sympathy. It is to understand the relationship between her and the mother that she so loved. The betrayal is the core of the writing.

The content is raw. The feelings are for everyone to see. The author does not shy away from reliving the moment if only it helps her to get closer to her mother. It is a brave attempt, needless to say.

Bad points

A book of this sort does not make it easy to find faults with it since it is too personal. But talking from a literature point of view, the cover page is dull. It streamlines the book to the genre but does not personalize the author’s story. The narration is single toned. It maybe due to the fact that the author has already made peace with her past. She is there to question her mother.


Overall the book is a different perspective to child abuse. The victim here describes her life and how she has grown up without a shoulder of sympathy.

Who do I recommend this to

This book is for those who enjoy a memoir. Definitely not for those weak at heart.

Quotable quotes

I had realized long time ago that my mother’s recollection had stayed for ever locked onto the picture of her husband, charming man of her youth. She, five years older than him and cursed with a beautiful mother, remained in her own mind the plain woman, lucky to have such a man.

The smile on his lips was always the smile of the nice father, but in his eyes I could see the nasty one, the one invisible to everyone else, the one that lived inside his head.

So, at twelve I discovered that alcohol could dull pain and saw it as a friend. It was only in later years I realized that a friendship with a bottle can overnight turn into a relationship with the enemy.

That evening I, who for years had always blamed my father and never found fault with my mother, only saw her as weak. She appeared to be a woman who not only had lost the chance of a normal happy life, but someone who had lost herself through the love she felt for my father.

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH