Forgotten: The Heartrending Story of Life in a Children’s Home

[quote_center]What if you feel like you could vanish off the face of the Earth and no one would care?[/quote_center]

 

ForgottenI have read a lot of books. Yet, never one so skillfully written. I don’t know  what caused me to pick this book at the store. The summary on its back cover was promised a drama. The book was described as a memoir and it seemed that the story could be characterized as being from the coming of age genre and thus of interest to me and the readers of this site.

At the very begining of this review, I should warn you that Forgotten is not an easy book to live (I know the word should have been “read” instead of “live”, but I did live through the story and therefore decided to stick with the word I unconsciously had written).

Les Cummings spent many years of his life in a children’s home near Portsmouth, UK and only left to find himself in even worse conditions due to the negligence of the people who were entrusted to care for him – starting with his mother, the city council, the police and every member of the society who chose to turn its head away. Forgotten is a non-fictional memoir and it traces Cummings whole life  — from early childhood to elderly adulthood. His analysis of the life he has been forced to live is often heartbreaking.

He writes:

[quote_center]….I rarely thought consciously about my childhood but it was always there in very action I took, every argument I picked, every decision I made   …..[/quote_center]

This is probably one of the reasons why watching coming of age films or reading coming of age books is a must for each responsible member of society. It allows us to have an alternative point of view of the world that surrounds us and the behavior of people with whom we have out daily interactions.

Yes, Forgotten was not an easy book to read, nor was it easy for its author to write.  His words better illustrate that point:

[quote_center]….Finding the strength to put pen to paper has not been easy. In order to write each line I have had to relive each memory – in many cases painstakingly….[/quote_center]

Desperation

His emotions and honesty, his writing makes the reader wonder if such things are really possible. Part of human nature does not want to accept cruelty and violence as characteristics of creatures that belong to the same race. I used the word “creatures” on purpose as I can’t force myself to consider them humans…as if that would bring me down to their level. The book of itself is so powerful, the story so provoking and realistic that one feels the need to stop reading for a while …as if to avoid the knowledge of what was happening inside the pages and the reality of what was being described  in words and fit into a book. Yet, one keeps reading and feels proud for Les Cummings for the courage it must have taken to write the history of his life.

[pull_quote_right]I did not have any opinion on religion at that age. Like everything else, I went because I was told to go. I was not encouraged to have a view on anything.[/pull_quote_right]

Sadly, not many things have changed in our modern society, as people below a certain age are still considered inferior when it comes to issues that adults consider too complicated for youngsters to comprehend. A lack of experience is the most used reason given in this discourse. Yet, we often forget that kids are human beings with their own individuality and should not be denied the opportunity to express their views.  They can often affect, and even modify, our own perception of the world, which often bears too many prejudices and limitations gained through each person’s unique living experience.

NLoneliness  ever before have I seen such powerful opening and closing paragraphs to the chapters of a book. The author masterfully selected attention grabbing words that make the reader anxious to find out more or to think about what has just been read.

My biggest fear as a child was being noticed…Blending with everyone else became a necessary survival tactic

Even before picking up the book, you can get pretty good idea of what is inside it from the name of the chapters in the contents list: “One of the forgotten”, “What will happen to my children?”, “I’m never going to leave you again”, “She is not coming back”, “Who do you think you are?”, “It’s only for one day”…etc.

Then, as one goes through the chapters, one associates more and more with Les as he grows in the children’s home – deprived from affection or a caring word. He becomes a victim of violence and prejudice. Years later, however,  when he finally manages to access his official file, the wording in it terribly twists the truth:

….I finished reading the documents…..According to the records in front of us I was Satan’s representative on Earth. I had bitten every hand that ever fed me – and I was fed very well, by the way, according to these statistics – I had stolen from everyone who tried to help me, and I had concocted wicked lies to innocent parties in hot water…

In the chapters of the book, you will find much reference to historical events that have occurred. One of them was the practice of the British of shipping orphans and disadvantaged children to Australia, which I referenced in my review of The Leaving of Liverpool.  Another was the war and its impact on the people and the society as a whole.

I highly recommend this book to everyone over the age of fourteen, but re-state that it’s not an easy read and readers are likely to do a lot of thinking in the process.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Oh my God, what a nighmare read, my husband laughed at me for reading such a book. One night I returned home from a late shift and found him curled up in a ball crying because he had read the book. He then told me his own childhood was simular although not anywhere near as bad. He had kept it hidden from me because I have such a wonderful family and was ashamed of his childhood. I knew his mother had died when he was young but not that he was placed into care. I am actively attempting to get him to go for therapy but thus far, he refuses.

  2. I’ve not read the book, but my heart goes out to innocent children who have to suffer things that they should not ever suffer.. However I will say some children are not so innocent and they will make a person crazy enough to do something they shouldn’t. I honestly think it’s something wrong with both sides. If you can’t handle a troubled child, you should not foster, because they are often very troubled and require alot of you and they will make you go crazy if you’re not the right type of person to handle a child like that. I wish people whould just choose to give up fostering if they are not equipped mentally to do so, because it doesn’t help the child in anyway to abuse them in mentally, physically, etc. They think they’re doing the right thing for the child, but their not. I wish every child could understand what they need to do to gain trust and love and respect, but so many want negative attention, and this sets people off. I wish every child could find that perfect match and trully be loved unconditionally by a family, and the family trully help them and change their life in a positive way forever. So sad. I love to see the stories of those who have overcome though, no matter what they’ve had to face in life. It is touching, and it is the best thing they could do is to overcome and become better, AND to help those who may have, or are, going through the same thing.

  3. read this book, i’m very sorry, i lived in those homes a bit later on, the abuse was not so prominent then, but les needed to get back to the homes for saftey from the bakers, mine was safety from a mother, when i see the assaults on les by these people, i’m thinking yes they did happen they are not dreams/nightmares, being attacked with a rolling pin, have youre arms twisted till they broke, smashing you in the face for the sheer hell of it, being locked away, it certainly was a nasty generation of adults, spitful bullies, like les, i survived, thank goodness, but this brings it all flooding back, hmmm, is that good, thanks les, i loved reading it, because i loved the homes, they were my safe house, and like i say the abuse was not so bad, although it did happen, but usually for a reason,

    • Thank you for your comment Evelyn. You have a point and one should not stigmatize the institutions as people have their own experiences . I used to know a boy who was forced to stay in one home ( pretty much by his own mother ) and what he shared with me about the reality inside was horrifying . But of course its one thing hearing ( reading about ) and other experiencing

  4. The book Forgotten by Lesley Cummings, I am still crying and trying to come to terms with what Lesley, his brothers, sister and the rest of the Childrens home suffered – HOW COULD WE LET THIS HAPPEN. I want to say Lesley to you and all who suffered you are hero’s and wonderful people, I don’t know how you kept going. My only regret is when you went back to the Bakers house on that day when you gave the father a good hiding, why didn’t you do him, the wife and that nasty son of their’s “IN” – I would have gone to prison with you, but you are the winner be proud Lesley you truly deserve it.

  5. Phew! I have just finished this book. Forgotten is a book I certainly will never forget. I had to put the book down many times and a one point my wife told me not to read it if it was so awful. But I felt compelled to continue and eventually (after many tear tuning pages) completed it.

    I agree it was such a brilliant read and with a wonderful narrative that almost took you into his sad world. I like the fact that Les didn’t paint himself to be a saint and that he was honest in his dealings with the police. Although being in social work myself I can assure the readers many who come from the childhood world of Les Cummings end up in prisons fro most of their lives.

    Les is without any doubt a man of extreme courage to flail his childhood all world for the world to see. If anyone reads this, please go and buy this book because it will take you on a terrible journey that will leave you thanking your lucky stars, you weren’t born as…Les Cummings.

    I pray Les you find peace of mind and the demons you fight, won’t eventually destroy the goodness in you.

  6. Forgotten was an amazing book. I have never cried so much reading one book and could not put the book down when I started reading it. I was in Les Cumming’s life while reading this book. What shocks me is how can anyone be so cruel to small innocent children just because they are ophans. The beating and sufferings, i cant forget what tortures Les Cumming went through through as a kid, physically, mentally, emotionally. My mind keep thinking about this book.

    Its so heartbreaking. The picture of the little boy on the book cover make want to hold him and never let him go.

    For those who treated the little ophans badly, hope they are getting their punishment wherever their souls are right now.

    God bless Les Cumming, he has done well in his life as an adult.

    Regards
    from Malaysia

  7. I was sure that you will be moved by that book. I can`t imagine a person that won`t be. Thank you for sharing you experience with you. On my part I will make sure I seek more coming of age book that make a statement on life as 'Forgotten'.

  8. A brilliant account of the author's life. The brutality inflicted on Les Cummings caused me to set the book aside on more then one occasion. I finished 'Forgotten' earlier today.
    The brutality inflicted on Les Cummings , as well as the other children in the Home, was an emotional experience for me. I am sure it will be for anyone who reads this book. It will take the reader out of their comfort zone.
    God Bless Les Cummings. He survived.

  9. Hello Richard. The book is a must read , yet as I mentioned in my review of it be aware that your stomach will turn many times – on the top of being a real account of event that have accrued to Mr.Cumming the literature style of the writing is first class.

    I have one explanation to made – Les never had a single toy in his life. The pictures I have included to illustrate my review are stock images picked by me based on my feel that both of them capture the spirit of the book – judging from your comment I see that this move of mine succeeded.

    When you read the book , come back and share your own take on it.

    Respectfully ,

    SkyKid

  10. The photo of of the little boy clutching his teddybear. Seeking solace in a society that has chosen to look upon these precious children as something less then human. The teddybear being the only comfort afforded to this child. This is a book I will purchase.

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