Fire on All Sides and Paper Cuts review – forensic accounts of surviving child rape

Two books by men who were sexually abused as children are unblinking in their accounts of violation and a lifetime’s psychological aftermath

Wherever you read these books will end up feeling incongruous. There’s an uncomfortable dissonance in reading about some of the most harrowing things men can do to children, and the psychological turmoil that unleashes, while on the bus, or waiting for coffee. But neither title sets out to be comfortable.

Paper Cuts, written in only six weeks, is a memoir by Stephen Bernard, a visiting professor of English at Oxford. His book details the persistent sexual abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of a Canon DT Fogarty. James Rhodes is the concert pianist whose first book, Instrumental, became the subject of probably the most high-profile publishing legal battle in the UK since the Da Vinci Code copyright case, after Rhodes’s ex-wife tried to ban the book, fearing its contents could upset their son. Rhodes won, and the book, which told of being raped by his school gym master, Peter Lee, and how classical music became his saviour, was a bestseller. The follow-up, Fire on All Sides (the title is from a stage direction in Don Giovanni), is a narrative of mental illness and relationship breakdown while Rhodes tours the world.

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