As Keggie Carew’s father begins to dissolve into the mists of his own mind thanks to the horrors of dementia, she travels back in time to find out more about his past, and her own.
Tom Carew was a remarkable man – inventive, anti-authoritarian, and involved in behind enemy lines tactics in the Second World War in France and then Burma – who then struggles to transition into the role of father and provider to his young family. Carew explores what made her father the amazing man she grew up with and who she finally lost to senility and old age.
I enjoyed this book. I didn’t necessarily understand the logic of the construction and pacing, but it worked well and I enjoyed it none the less. Carew darts back and forth between different times to tell her story, moving effortlessly between her father’s war stories, her childhood recollections and the devastating day to day moments of dealing with a loved one slowly dissolving in front of you.
Carew has plenty of material to work with. There are lots of photos included in the book: from her father’s war exploits, her family, to the heartbreaking notes left by Tom to himself as he recognises that his mind is slowly unraveling and he is not the man he used to be. I found these to be particularly moving, as Tom, aware that he was not as clear as he had been in the past desperately wrote to himself to try to keep himself on track.
The book seems to have been very much a cathartic journey for Carew – she managed to piece together the failed and flawed relationships over the last two generations of her family and the effect these had on her father, his failed marriage with her mother and the flow on effects to herself and her siblings.
For some reason I was expecting this to be more of a memoir from the author’s point of view, but I learned a lot more about the English involvement in the second world war than I was expecting, and the ins and outs of Tom’s Special Operations unit and the politics of the areas of the time. So if you like a good war story, this book is definitely one for you.
This is a wonderful salute to a man who deserves to be remembered.
4 out of 5 wicked Stepmothers .
Thanks to Netgalley and Randomhouse UK for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.