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Summary and book reviews of The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig

The Dead Fathers Club

by Matt Haig

The Dead Fathers Club
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2007, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2007, 336 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

A ghost story with a twist—a suspenseful and poignantly funny update of the Hamlet story.

Eleven-year-old Philip Noble has a big problem: His dad, who was killed in a car accident, appears as a bloodstained ghost at his own funeral and introduces Philip to the Dead Fathers Club. The club, whose members were all murdered, gathers outside the Castle and Falcon, the local pub that Philip’s family owns and lives above. Philip’s father tells him that Uncle Alan killed him and he must avenge his death. When Philip realizes that Uncle Alan has designs on his mom and the family pub, Philip decides that something must be done. But it’s a much bigger job than he anticipated, especially when he is caught up by the usual distractions of childhood—a pretty girl, wayward friends, school bullies, and his own self-doubt. The Dead Fathers Club is a riveting, imaginative, and quirky update of Shakespeare’s great tragedy that will establish Matt Haig as a young writer of great talent and imagination.

The First Time I Saw
Dad After He Died

I walked down the hall and pushed the door and went into the smoke and all the voices went quiet like I was the ghost.
Carla the Barmaid was wearing her hoop earrings and her tired eyes. She was pouring a pint and she smiled at me and she was going to say something but the beer spilt over the top.
Uncle Alan who is Dads brother was there wearing his suit that was tight with his neck pouring over like the beer over the glass. His big hands still had the black on them from mending cars at the Garage. They were over Mums hands and Mums head was low like it was sad and Uncle Alans head kept going down and he lifted Mums head up with his eyes. He kept talking to Mum and he looked at me for a second and he saw me but he didnt say anything. He just looked back at Mum and kept pouring his words that made her forget about Dad.
Nan was sitting on her own with her silver sticks on the seat and she was drinking red juice like blood ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  1. During the course of his narrative, Philip Noble, commits a series of crimes that grow increasingly serious. Despite his criminal behavior, does he continue to move the sympathies of the reader? By what means does he do so?

  2. Leah confides to Philip that she hates God. By contrast, her father, Mr. Fairview, has turned enthusiastically toward religion after the death of his wife. What commentary does The Dead Fathers Club offer regarding religion, and how does religion influence events and relationships in the novel?

  3. Philip observes, “If you speak to yourself people think you are mad but if you write the same things they think you are clever.” Discuss examples from life or literature that bear out this...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Philip, who pours out his story in a style unhindered by punctuation or the rules of grammar, is an immensely likeable character. Spending 300-pages seeing through his innocent and honest eyes as he relates his tragically-comic story is an experience not to be missed. His story is actually more tragic than anything Hamlet had to deal with. In fact, my overwhelming urge on finishing The Dead Fathers Club was to apologize to Philip for laughing at his predicament, but it is impossible not to as Haig has a keen eye for the blackly comic.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
San Francisco Chronicle - Reyhan Harmanci

One of the joys (for those familiar with Hamlet) is figuring out at what points Haig's work diverges. Phillip is an unreliable narrator, but it isn't until close to the ending that you begin to wonder just how unreliable .... Through Phillip, and the struggles Phillip has with his father's ghost, we see the cruelty of death, the desire to make sense out of an nonsensical event. The Dead Fathers Club is full of funny moments, but the ending reveals the dark heart of Hamlet's story.

USA Today - Susan Kelly

Haig cleverly reinvents this 400-year-old tragedy as a 21st-century morality tale inhabited by schoolchildren, barmaids and mechanics, and it's fun to look for the parallels between the two works. . . The story's greatest strength, however, is Philip's perspective as narrator. Haig effectively runs Philip's words and thoughts together with an economy of punctuation, spliced with details that a child would notice, to create the voice of an anxious child

Library Journal

What makes this work effective is that the narrative captures the anxiety of a timid boy, ridiculed by everyone, who must decide whether and how to kill his charismatic uncle. Hamlet never faced such difficulties.

Booklist - Michael Cart

Starred Review. Given to panic attacks, Philip is a breathless storyteller who seldom stops for punctuation but whose honesty and innocence, which shine from every sentence, are utterly captivating and heartbreakingly poignant. The result is an absolutely irresistible read.

Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review. Haig does an enviable job of leavening a sad premise through the words and actions of a charming, resilient young man.

Kirkus Reviews

We now owe another debt to Shakespeare, and one to Haig, for re-imagining a tragic masterpiece with such wit, force and-yes-originality.

The Guardian - Gerard Woodward

The child's perspective also brings out the absurd comedy of Shakespeare's tragedy; most of all it allows Haig to indulge his innocently acute eye for detail and his delightfully weird imagination.

The Daily Mail, UK

Humorous and original … [it] will appeal to adults and children alike.

Sunday Express - Nick Ryan

The Dead Fathers Club is poignant, funny, innocent, touching has an underdog and enough nasty undertones to please the most cynical mind - all of it written from a child's perspective. . . This novel is both funny, surreal and at times full of very black humour: a fine piece of work by a talented and clearly imaginative young writer.

Reader Reviews
Joe

What happened next!
This book is absolutely amazing, at first I was a bit bothered by the lack of punctuations but I later loved it. I really recommend it because it has a nice mix of drama and comedy. The ending will leave you wondering, what happened next? but I guess...   Read More

dudeman

awesome
This book is awesome! Hilarious, heartfelt, and easily relateable. It opens up the reader's imagination and ability to picture things in the mind. You never get tired while reading it. It keeps your reading sense tingling!

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Hamlet summarized

It's not at all necessary to be familiar with Hamlet to appreciate The Dead Fathers Club, but for those who would like to freshen their memories, here is a quick outline:

Hamlet's father, King Hamlet of Denmark, is recently dead. Claudius, the dead king's brother, becomes King and quickly marries King Hamlet's widow, Gertrude. Young Hamlet fears that Claudius killed his father, a fear that is confirmed when he meets his father's ghost who tells him that Claudius did indeed murder him by pouring poison in his ear. Intent on ...

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