Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

My Mother the Psychopath – Olivia Rayne

Non Fiction

I don’t typically go for the ‘misery memoir’ genre of reading because quite frankly I find much of the books that proliferated at the peak of its popularity grim, unrelenting and almost voyeuristic. However when the contents move away from a catalogue of actions to something more thoughtful, an exploration of a person, well I find that fascinating.

Olivia Rayne always knew as she was growing up that other mothers didn’t behave like hers but it was probably more of a slow realisation to making the leap to giving her the diagnosis of a psychopath. This term is thrown about with a fair degree of abandon these days, thanks in part to the popularity of Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test which educated the population that not all psychopaths are serial killers, in fact the vast majority move among us.

Mothering though is generally accepted to require all the good skills, protecting, nurturing, and caring which don’t square with what comes naturally to the psychopath. This of course means any child born to such a parent, and you could argue particularly if it is the mother who is wired in this way, is going to suffer to some degree. Coupled as these people often are to weak and ineffectual partners and the result is disaster.

Rayne heads up each chapter to her memoir with a description of one of the 20 accepted psychopathic traits and then follows it with an example of her life with her mother. Some of these events took place when Olivia was a small child, some more recently but many show that the face presented to the world was far from that which she used to scare and humiliate her daughter away from the public gaze. Of course this methodology also allows the reader to make a judgement on the truth of what we are being told in a way that a list of awful events is less likely to have the same impact on the reader.

The book is also testament to that movement that I am desperately hoping will gather pace. Olivia isn’t using what happened to her in childhood as a reason for behaving like a victim. She’s hidden her identity in part so that she can continue working amongst her peers without the prurient details defining her for ever more. Most fascinating of all was the discovery that Olivia had broken ranks on the silence of her childhood a couple of years ago when she submitted an article about her mother to an online paper. The reaction was in line with that which had occurred when she initially broke off contact, a ceaseless barrage of emails in turns abusive and appealing, not just to Olivia herself but to her boss, colleagues and friends.

With a definite feeling that this book is both putting the past behind her and reaching out to others who are in this little studied relationship and giving a feeling of hope for a different type of life. For that you can only applaud this brave author.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Ebury Press who allowed me to read a copy of My Mother the Psychopath. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 24 January 2019
Publisher: Ebury Press
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

24 thoughts on “My Mother the Psychopath – Olivia Rayne

  1. I would have avoided this if I’d seen it, assuming it was a misery memoir, like you have a problem with the voyeuristic elements of those. But this does sound different in its approach. I’m glad the author has a sense of hope going forward.


    1. I think it is easy to lump all of these books into one category and whilst some of the events are horrifying they all are used to highlight aspects of psychopathic behaviour which mean the appeal is far wider than could be presumed.


  2. This sounds like a really interesting approach to laying proverbial ghosts to rest, Cleo. And it sounds quite different to the misery memoirs you mention (I’ve no interest in them, either). It takes real skill to write a personal history like that. I wish her well as she goes on with her life.


  3. I think it is interesting that a child turned adult has found the courage to share this and I believe it could actually many who may have grown up with a mother who had similar qualities as many of these children blame themselves, they’ve been made to feel they are at fault. Of course if you had a caring, loving mother who nurtured you, I can understand why there’s little need to understand the other.


    1. Exactly Claire I think those of us who have had more difficult relationships with our parents for similar sorts of reasons will find this a fascinating read. What I admired most is that the author doesn’t appear to be that old and yet has managed to make the leap, and avoid being a victim!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting – the difference between a full on Misery Memoir and something like this more uplifting although at times disturbing read is quite hard to define but I found this more fascinating than harrowing.


  4. I think the author is quite strong to relate her story not as a victim, but more as a survivor and witness. Sounds like a fascinating read and separate from the usual pack.


  5. To be honest, had I not read your review, I probably wouldn’t have picked up this one, purely on the basis that it’s my pet peeve how frequently and casually the word “psychopath” is employed. I guess I’m a bit of a snob – I did my undergrad with hons in psychology, and there was no DSM diagnosis of “psychopathy” and so much of the “science” to which people refer regarding “psychopaths” is really sloppy, or misunderstood/misinterpreted. However, I’ll eat my words (another reminder not to judge a book by its cover), because it sounds like it’s right up my alley! I’m gripped already! Thank you!


  6. Reblogged this on Contemplations and commented:
    At last, a book that doesn’t appear to follow the usual pattern of the ‘misery memoir’. The reviewer writes that the author is reaching out to help hurt people avoid falling into the trap of adopting a victim mentality. Thank you to the blogger for writing this review. It sounds like a valuable book.


Leave a Reply, I love hearing what you have to say

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.