When Tom Allen’s first memoir, No Shame, was published successful 2020, helium was 37, permanently azygous and surviving astatine location with his parents successful Bromley. Two years on, circumstances person changed. Allen has a fellow and a location of his own, minutes distant from the household home, but his dada died abruptly astatine the extremity of 2021. Too Much is his effort to look that loss, travel to presumption with their imperfect narration and larn however to beryllium an big present his much-loved relation exemplary is gone. Fans of his arch and cutting drama mightiness beryllium amazed to find that the publication is heartfelt, susceptible and touchingly sincere.
Allen proceeds 1 snapshot astatine a time, each section opening with an aphorism from his dad. They include: “You tin ne'er person excessively overmuch love”; “If you can’t amended connected silence, support your rima shut”; “The satellite takes you astatine your ain valuation”; and the baffling but catchy “It’s acold capable for a handbag”. Familial emotion glows from the leafage – not glibly, waving jazz hands, but mildly and steadfastly, with each enactment of kindness and infinitesimal of exasperation. They amusement they attraction “by bickering senselessly implicit weatherproof cushions”. Bleeding radiators takes connected a poignance that’s astir unbearable. This is the benignant of parenting that doesn’t get written astir successful books.
The thought of “too much” takes connected respective meanings. “Dad and I were precise antithetic and astatine times I disquieted I could beryllium excessively overmuch for him,” Allen begins. “For example, I was brought up to defy immoderate unnecessary dramatics. For my parents, this was an uphill struggle.” Elsewhere, it feels “too much” to inquire consecutive friends to spell with him to a cheery bar. He worries that “if I started surviving my beingness excessively much, determination would beryllium a terms to pay”. No favour was ever “too much” for his dad. His nonaccomplishment is “too overmuch to understand”.
There is drama arsenic good arsenic pathos, overmuch of it focusing connected Allen’s conflicting desperation some to acceptable successful and to beryllium special. Occasionally, self-deprecation crosses into self‑flagellation, and immoderate of his investigation is achy to read. He has a perfectionist’s oculus (and an obsession with interior design) and is adept astatine skewering the banality of grief – specified arsenic erstwhile a ceremonial location “resembled little a threshold betwixt this beingness and the adjacent and much a league suite … the benignant of abstraction a section accountancy steadfast mightiness clasp its quarterly meetings”.
There are duff notes, specified arsenic an awkward and somewhat boring travel to Japan, and immoderate clumsy, repetitive passages that look hastily written and insufficiently edited: babies “can conscionable spot the sadness successful my psyche … babies tin spot the bleakness successful my soul”. But possibly that’s inevitable erstwhile penning successful the oculus of a bewildering loss.
The funniest and astir memorable section recalls Allen’s archetypal travel to a cheery sauna (or “thinly disguised enactment club”). He makes an contiguous faux pas, addressing a near-naked Frenchman arsenic “vous”. Then “judgemental gays” and their “masculine performances” capable him with self-doubt. His mother’s dependable pops into his head, “not to basal successful motivation judgement but to basal successful judgement of the decor”. Later, arsenic helium sits crestfallen connected the bid home, his dada texts him: “Are you OK? Let maine cognize what clip you’re coming backmost and I tin prime you up from the station.”
Allen seems to person grown up somewhat backmost to front. A fussy small lad who conscionable wanted to beryllium an adult. A thirtysomething surviving with his folks. A grieving lad struggling with manhood present the template has been taken away. Nobody is ever aged capable to grip the nonaccomplishment of a genitor – but Allen’s effect is simply a mature and tender reflection connected a analyzable relationship, filled with love.
Too Much by Tom Allen is published by Hodder Studio (£20). To enactment the Guardian and Observer, bid your transcript astatine guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges whitethorn apply.