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Tell Me Im Worthless Alison Rumfitt Main

"Tell Me I'm Worthless" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Cipher Press

tell me im worthless alison rumfitt poster large

Written by Alison Rumfitt
2021, 276 pages, Fiction
Released on 28th October 2021


Having received outstanding reviews from both the horror and wider book world, Alison Rumfitt’s debut Tell Me I’m Worthless heralds the arrival of a distinctive new voice. This visceral novel is as striking as Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting debut was back in 1993, with a similar bleak mix of casual sex, rape, drug use and hopelessness with the state of the nation. However, whilst the junkies of Trainspotting cared nothing for politics, Tell Me I’m Worthless has a deeper fractured message rippling through its nihilistic message. Fascism is alive, healthy and flourishing in modern Britain; Brexit is barely mentioned, but its dark shadow looms over proceedings, reflecting the county’s recent lurch to the right-wing of the political spectrum.

If Rumfitt is to believed, Britain is broken, very few individuals are satisfied with their lot in life, and Tell Me I’m Worthless is littered with characters who are not comfortable in their own skin or are medicated by drugs and alcohol. In this uncompromising bleak novel, horror bubbles below the surface until one of the four main story strands introduces ‘The House’ with its own very distinctive presence; to call it a ‘haunted house’ would be a disservice, as it is alive in the same way the building in Brian Asman’s Man, Fuck This House has a conscience. The House is a living, breathing character which lurks in the background and exerts influence far beyond the boundaries of its garden and fences. The descriptions of the House, its origins and insidious connections to fascism are outstanding, with the ripple effect extending to the other protagonists.

Although Tell Me I’m Worthless is as dark as anything you are likely to read this year, it also has a sly sense of humour which has an almost surreal quality to it. One of the characters has a poster of a very famous English eighties pop/indie star, who in recent years has expressed very right-wing views (he is not named in the book, but it should be obvious, particularly to British readers, who he is), which comes to life. These scenes are outstanding and seriously unsettling, with the singer having the ability to creep outside the confines of his poster and threaten the woman or those she becomes close to. On one occasion she has moved the poster to under her bed, but she hears him rustling and thudding before a hand shoots out and grabs her partner’s foot! Or perhaps it was all in her imagination? With much of the book it is very hard to tell, as the narrations are deliberately inconsistent, disjointed, and contradict themselves, all of which is part of the charm of this uniquely jarring reading experience.

Author Alison Rumfitt is a trans woman and there is a fair bit of trans-politics laced into the story, and on a couple of occasions I used Google to get a clearer understanding on the acronyms used, ‘TERF’ being one of the examples. Main character Alice is a trans woman who medicates with drugs and alcohol and is often on edge, with the title of the book Tell Me I’m Worthless perhaps referring to her own inner turmoil. Some of the edgiest scenes are developed around Alice doing very mundane stuff like walking or traveling on the bus, but there is always menace in the air and the possibility of a random insult, slur, or worse, if a passer-by clocked she is trans.

The story is built around a shared trauma Alice had with the two other main characters, Ila and Hannah, three years earlier in an encounter with the House. The story then moves back and forwards over the two periods, with the ups and downs of their relationship. Combined they show different aspects of the British queer scene in an unnamed city, taking in feminist politics and other topical subjects, such as cancelling.

I was interested to see this glowing quote from Gary Budden, who runs Influx Press: "There's fascism in the rotten House of Albion, and it's getting worse; Alison Rumfitt's superlative trans horror picks a fight with the poisonous state of modernity and fearlessly attacks it head on. Vital, thrilling, utterly alive." As this is exactly the type of book Influx would release and are undoubtedly disappointed not to release it, with a similar fractured narrative style to Rob True’s In the Shadow of the Phosphorous Dawn, which we gave a fantastic review to last year.

Politics and horror can be strange bedfellows but Tell Me I’m Worthless captures a mood which many people will undoubtedly connect with in post-Brexit modern Britain. As time moves on, there will undoubtedly be more horror fiction which shines a light on trans issues, with Tell Me I’m Worthless setting the bar very high as a way of comparison.


Overall: 5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Buy from Amazon UK.

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About The Author
Tony Jones
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer - UK
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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