Summary and book reviews of Dadland by Keggie Carew

Dadland

by Keggie Carew

Dadland by Keggie Carew
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Mar 2017, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Barbara Bamberger Scott

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About this Book

Book Summary

A spellbinding journey into surprising and shady corners of twentieth-century politics, a rackety English childhood, the poignant breakdown of a family, the corridors of dementia and beyond.

Keggie Carew grew up in the gravitational field of an unorthodox father who lived on his wits and dazzling charm. For most of her adult life, Keggie was kept at arm's length from her father's personal history, but when she is invited to join him for the sixtieth anniversary of the Jedburghs - an elite special operations unit that was the first collaboration between the American and British Secret Services during World War II—a new door opens in their relationship. As dementia stakes a claim over his memory, Keggie embarks on a quest to unravel her father's story, and soon finds herself in a far more consuming place than she had bargained for.

Tom Carew was a maverick, a left-handed stutterer, a law unto himself. As a Jedburgh he was parachuted behind enemy lines to raise guerrilla resistance first against the Germans in France, then against the Japanese in Southeast Asia, where he won the moniker "Lawrence of Burma." But his wartime exploits are only the beginning. Part family memoir, part energetic military history, Dadland takes us on a spellbinding journey, in peace and war, into surprising and shady corners of twentieth-century politics, her rackety English childhood, the poignant breakdown of her family, the corridors of dementia and beyond. As Keggie pieces her father—and herself—back together again, she celebrates the technicolor life of an impossible, irresistible, unstoppable man.

1

My dad is cutting a hole in a two-litre plastic milk bottle. The hole is opposite the handle so he can pee into it and hold it at the same time. It's his favourite invention. For now. He's making one for me and won't be persuaded otherwise. He has them all over the house in case he gets caught short. Still very practical, then. Going through his pockets for a penknife I find a note. It says, My name is Tom Carew, but I have forgotten yours. He has been giving this note to everyone. I'm showing Dad a picture of Mum. I often do this when he comes to stay. The photograph of Mum sits on the windowsill in a silver frame next to a photograph of him. A posthumous needle at my stepmother.

'What relationship with that woman?' Dad asks.

'Your wife,' I tell him. 'My mother. Jane.'

'Really?'

'Yes.'

'Incredible!'

'Yes.'

'I can see it now.' His voice is a little wistful.

'Good.'

'Incredible . ...

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  • award image

    Costa Book Awards
    2017

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In her notable debut, Keggie Carew examines the life of her father Tom, a decorated war hero whose multitude of talents did not include the skills needed to handle civilian life or keep a family together. Yet even in his waning years, his personal magnetism impelled his daughter to explain and affirm him. Dadland is the satisfying story of an unusual father—daring in war, inept in peace, but even in the fog of dementia, indisputably charming—told by an at times befuddled and frustrated but always admiring daughter.   (Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This is a scintillating portrait of Britain's Greatest Generation at war and uneasy peace.

The Guardian (UK)

It's a book about a singular man. Even near the end of his life, Tom managed to charm and astonish ... [An] original, moving book.

The Times (UK)

A fascinating mix of military history and family memoir.

Financial Times

Carew's funny, fascinating and unflinching tribute to her father is a portrait of a complex man: not just a war hero but a flawed husband; not just a Jedburgh but her incorrigible and much-missed dad.

Irish Times (UK)

A moving memoir-cum-biography.

The Sunday Express (UK)

One of the most vivid books I have ever read about the cut and thrust of family life, its best of times and its worst of times ... A rich and stunning achievement, a feat of imagination that sews together many parallel true stories. Above all, it is a labour of shining daughterly love.

The Bookseller (UK), "Book of the Month"

Dazzling ... a detective story, a family history, a thrilling tale of derring-do, and the most distinctive and affecting memoir I've read since H Is for Hawk.

The Observer (UK)

An astonishing biography ... For all its vigour and comic zest, Dadland is a careful and tender discovery that patiently circles around a man who spent his life mythologizing and running away from himself.

Esquire (UK)

Outstandingly good.

BBC Radio Bristol

An intoxicating blend of history, memoir and biography.

Literary Review (UK)

How lovely to discover a book that makes one seize friends by the lapels and implore them, 'Read this' ... above all it is a portrait of a loveable, charming, mischievous old rascal named Tom Carew ... [A] wonderful book.

Author Blurb Robert Macfarlane, author of The Old Ways
I loved Dadland for its tenderness, humour and candour ... It has also taught me something deeply moving about tolerance, and about love.

Author Blurb James Holland, author of The Rise of Germany, 1939-1941
Dadland is a wonderful, haunting and beautifully written memoir unlike any other I have ever read ... An absolutely stunning book.

Author Blurb Rachel Joyce, New York Times bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
I was so absorbed and moved by Dadland I haven't been able to read anything else. It is beautifully written—deft and funny and so tender—but I have also come away knowing more about history, more about dementia, more about men, more about daughters, more about love, family, sheds, diaries, an inquisitive mind and peeing in plastic bottles. I loved it.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Jedburghs

The Jedburghs were highly trained guerilla warriors who operated behind the scenes, under the radar, and out of the headlines during World War II. In Dadland, we learn that the book's central character, Tom Carew, was part of Jedburgh commando teams, first in France and then in Burma.

The Jeds were recruited from military personnel who were specifically seeking a dangerous mission, were willing to train as parachutists, and preferably, had knowledge of foreign languages. The American Office of Strategic Services and British Special Operations Executive combined strategies and manpower in forming the small physically fit Jedburgh teams. In France, where civilian resistance to the Nazis was a significant factor, the Jeds joined the ...

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