And When Did You Last See Your Father? by Blake Morrison

The commentary on the back of this book claims it was the first of what has become a genre – the confessional memoir. It may indeed be because of what came later, namely lots of books about misery and horrible things happening to children behind a veneer of material comfort and social respectability, that I read this with more foreboding about what would come next than was justified.

This is a beautifully written and very detailed (‘granular’ is the in word at the moment, I think) account of the life and death of the author’s father. It is a meditation on family relationships; ‘blood is thicker than  water’, as the saying in Britain goes. But it is also a vivid description of family life in post-war Britain, with lots of memory-jogging observations for those of us who have lived through some of the same period.

Most of all, though, it is both a paean to and a critique of the father, Arthur Morrison. So much to admire in him and, also, so much to criticise. All this is seen from the perspective of the son – filial love and filial resentment competing with each other throughout the book.

It is a lovely piece of work.

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