Renee Conoulty: Ugly: My Memoir by Robert Hoge


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Ugly: My Memoir by Robert Hoge

craniofacial surgery
Robert Hoge was born with a giant tumour on his forehead, severely distorted facial features and legs that were twisted and useless. His mother refused to look at her son, let alone bring him home. But home he went, to a life that, against the odds, was filled with joy, optimism and boyhood naughtiness.

Home for the Hoges was a bayside suburb of Brisbane. Robert's parents, Mary and Vince, knew that his life would be difficult, but they were determined to give him a typical Australian childhood. So along with the regular, gruelling and often dangerous operations that made medical history and gradually improved Robert's life, there were bad haircuts, visits to the local pool, school camps and dreams of summer sports.

Ugly is Robert's account of his life, from the time of his birth to the arrival of his own daughter. It is a story of how the love and support of his family helped him to overcome incredible hardships. It is also the story of an extraordinary person living an ordinary life, which is perhaps his greatest achievement of all.

Featured on the ABC's Australian Story program, 16 September 2013.

Hey! Here's my review.

I listened to the audiobook edition of this autobiography. When I realised that it was narrated by the author, I was a little nervous. Narrating an audiobook is more than just reading aloud and often authors don't quite cut it as voice actors. Well, I was impressed. Not only could Robert write an engaging memoir, he could articulate well via audio too. He spoke clearly and gave his story an authentic Aussie feel.

I read a lot of fiction, so I saw Robert as a character in his own story. I found him to be likable and relatable. I might not have been born with a tumor on my face, but I also faced schoolyard bullies, grew up in Australia, loved reading as a kid, felt nervous as a teenager talking to the opposite sex and fell in love. Robert was able to share his life story with a dose of self-depreciating humour and bring out my Aussie instinct to barrack for the underdog. 

I found hearing about the ins and out of living with a physical disability very interesting. I spent the last few years working with people who have a disability, though most of them had intellectual disabilities and weren't able to share their feelings and experiences as eloquently as Robert. 

I often find it difficult to review an autobiography, to be able to separate my opinion of the person from my opinion of their writing style. In this case, I was impressed with both. I received this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 


  • Where: Hachette via Audible Australia
  • Format: audiobook

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