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Book Review: Mum can you lend me twenty-quid? by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips

By Sunday 28 February 2010Books & Authors, Reviews
mum can you lend me twenty quid Mum Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? is the true story by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips of what drugs did to her family. The prologue described the knock at the door late one night, the police – one of her twin sons has died. Although this Prologue intended to encourage the reader to read on, I felt that it didn’t need it. I had already picked up the book because of the title and back cover.

The book starts off by describing the twins and their family. Average was the word that sprang to mind. Elizabeth describes the closeness of the twins and how they were lovely children. Elizabeth describes some of the warm, funny, close memories that she had of her young children and of family life at that time.

Then she tells the reader about her twins Nick and Simon’s adolescent years. Elizabeth discusses not knowing about their Cannabis use and Simon writes sections explaining what was really going on. He describes the early life style of his teenage years and how the little lies started to grow in to more elaborate complex lies.

Elizabeth describes how she felt as her sons became young adults, started to live independently and became involved in crime. Elizabeth still unaware of what exactually was going on, but knowing that something wasn’t right. The book continues with extracts from Simon explaining what was actually going on and how him and his twin brother progressed to become addicted to heroin.

Elizabeth then tells of how she coped with the addiction cycles. She explains the financial cost, the psychological pressure of trying to maintain her Teaching position with very few people knowing about her sons addition and most importantly the worry and anxiety she felt. She then tells the rest of the story with this addiction cycle coming some-what repetitive at points. Throughout the books she gains others perspectives by allowing them to write short sections. Contributers include Nick’s Drug Worker, his Probation Officer, Hostel Workers as well as Simon’s continued input.

Overall it is an emotional journey. It helps you to realise that addiction doesn’t just effect the person with the addiction but their families too. It helps you understand that because of the nature of addiction being a taboo subject it makes families feel isolated and alone, which is partly why she wrote the book.

The other reason she wrote the book is to make Nick’s life (the twin that tragically died) not be in vein. She describes that perhaps without the death of Nick, Simon would have never got drug free. They were too closely intertwined. The final few chapters of the book describe what the family have done since the death of Nick. The good work in setting up a charitable foundation, speaking at various conferences and even being a consultant for the UK government around UK drug policy. If you would like to read Mum Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips, you can buy it at Amazon.


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  • Mike says:

    Looks like a powerful and good read. My other half runs a book club – I willl suggest it to him; I feel all of his friends could use reading something like that.

  • jasmine says:

    wow! what a great book, cant wait to read it.

  • Antony says:

    Yes Jasmine, it’s a really good book – well worth a read!

    A x

  • Elizabeth says:

    I’m halfway through reading this book but I would like to add my own views. When the two young men were drug addicts they ruined other peoples lives. They would steal innocent girls handbags from them as they walked along unaware. They broke into people’s flats to steal, stole credit cards and lived a life of crime. When you have suffered some of these acts yourself then it is very difficult to have any sympathy for these louts.

    • Antony says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I understand that drug and alcohol misuse doesn’t just effect the users but those around them as well, including family, friends and the wider community (through crime as you rightly point out).

      But understanding and empathy of why people use drugs, the root cause s, can help people to change their lives, so that they are healthier, happier and no longer turn to crime.

      A x

  • Elizabeth says:

    I am halfway through this book and would like to express my opinion. When the two young men were addicted to Heroin they made other people’s lives a misery. They stole girls handbags from them as they walked along unaware. They broke into peoples homes to steal cash, bank cards and other items they could sell. These acts can ruin other innocent people’s lives. These young men made their choice, why should we suffer because of them?

    • Antony says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you for your comment. Choice is an interesting word. Often people make the choice to use drugs and/or alcohol, but nobody makes an active choice to become dependant/an addict. However they can make a series of choices to change their lives, stop using and stop committing crime.

      This of course gives little comfort to those who have had their houses broken into by drug users. You mention that these events can ruin other innocent people’s lives, but I’d say victims of crime have a choice to – do they let this ruin their lives or do they get on and move on?

      A x

  • Jayne says:

    Hi Antony,

    This sounds like a truly insightful read. A book that can help parents have a fresh and true perspective into the lives of young people and how simple it can be for their child to become drug dependent. I will add it to my books to read list.



    • Antony says:

      Hi Jayne,

      Thanks for the comment. It was a good read, especially as it was written from a mother’s perspective and a twin who recovered from drug and alcohol addiction.

      Well worth a read.

      A x

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