Mary Trump on her Uncle Donald

by Jennifer Bryce

At the front of Mary Trump’s book about her uncle Donald, Too Much is Never Enough, is a quote from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo:  If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.

I was unsure about whether to read this book. Every day news broadcasts confront us with the devastation caused by a narcissistic sociopathic man who happens to be president of the United States. Could I take more?

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Mary Trump is a clinical psychologist and she has experienced first hand what it is like to be a member of the Trump family. She has reason to write this ruthless ‘blistering memoir’. Her father, Freddy, was the oldest of the Trump children, Donald was the second son. Freddy was disinherited — largely because he didn’t tow the family line — he wanted to be an airline pilot rather than be groomed to head Trump Management. The extraordinarily cruel and controlling power that the Trump father, Fred, had over his children led to Freddy crumbling:  giving up his airline career, divorcing his wife, and becoming a hopeless alcoholic who died in 1981 at the age for forty-two. Donald took over as the favoured son. So Mary has every reason to seek some kind of revenge. She, her daughter and her brother and his family missed out on inheriting a share of a huge fortune.

The book is perhaps more about the legacy of the emotionally unavailable Trump parents. There seems to have been no love. A photograph of the Trump children does, I think, show them as tense and anxious. A review in The Guardian describes how Trump’s mother was ‘born to penury in Scotland, [and] remained so meanly thrifty that every week she dressed up in her fur stole and drove her pink Cadillac around New York suburbs to collect small change from the coin-operated laundry rooms in buildings the family owned’.

Money seemed to replace love in this family. There are many cases of  wealthy Victorian parents who were remote from their children — but usually there seemed to be a loving nanny. Mary mentions here grandmother’s illness caused by gynaecological problems soon after Robert, the youngest child’s birth. But the mother lived on to her late eighties. I suppose she was ‘nouveau riche’. She is described as carrying out her husband’s bidding, showing no warmth towards her children. The father took little or no interest in his children’s education.  Mary suggests that Donald had a learning disability — it is well known that he hired a surrogate to sit his university entrance exams. Mary gives the impression that the father rewarded displays of toughness and sleight of hand. Whereas Freddy didn’t wish to pursue the road to cut-throat business,  Donald was easily manipulated by his father. Mary suggests that in the same way today he is manipulated by the likes of Vladimir Putin.

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The Trump children: Donald is on the far left next to oldest son, Freddy

Mary was certain that Donald would lose the 2016 election: how could such an ignorant ego-maniac win? So she didn’t attend the election party as she didn’t want to display before the family her joy when Hillary Clinton won. But she was wrong.

Tellingly, Trump has a photograph of his father on his desk in the Oval Office.

I interpret Mary Trump’s book as saying that there are explanations as to why Donald Trump has turned out the way he has. The book doesn’t set out to address the weightier question of how is it that such a man came to be president of the United States.

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Donald Trump with his father in 1988