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John Birmingham's father died. And his life fell apart. The next six months were spent grinding through the dark forests of depression until he finally emerged out of the darkness onto sunlit upland. A unique yet universal story, On Father reaches out to everyone who has experienced and survived deep grief.… (mais)
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I wasn't sure that I was ready to read On Father by John Birmingham. I saw it at the library and took it home, thinking that it might make an appropriate post for Father's Day, upcoming in September. I hadn't looked at the blurb; I had assumed the book would be some kind of homage to modern fatherhood, and I wondered whether it would 'unman' me to read it because I am still fragile about the loss of my father. Yes, I know, a strange verb to use, that one, 'to unman'. All it means is for some circumstance to deprive a person of qualities traditionally associated with men, such as self-control or courage. But self-control and courage is hardly the sole prerogative of men, and there is no comparable word for women to use. 'Unman' is the one I need to convey the trepidation with which I opened this small book. I thought it might make me cry.
It turned out to be harder to read than I'd expected.

This is the blurb for On Father:
John Birmingham's father died. And his life fell apart. The next six months were spent grinding through the dark forests of depression until he finally emerged out of the darkness onto sunlit upland. A unique yet universal story, ‘On Father’ reaches out to everyone who has experienced and survived deep grief.

I avoid books about grief. Some well-meaning person lent me a copy of C S Lewis's A Grief Observed after the death of the only school friend I'd ever kept up with. It's a bit of shock when someone of your own age dies, and Sue was only in her forties. I was very fond of her, and still cherish her memory, drinking my coffee out of her beautiful bone china mug and resisting all suggestions to reset the time on her small Seiko clock that graces my mantelpiece. But the book was useless, and I only read it to be polite.

So if Birmingham's book had been titled On Grief as IMO it should have been, I would have left it where it was. But having brought it home, I tackled it, learning that Birmingham felt about his father, the way I felt about mine:

When a parent dies, for those left behind it can feel as though half of the sky has fallen. My father was the sheltering sky, and beneath his mild firmament no storm ever raged, no hard rain fell. His nature was as gentle as the fallen world is brutish. All of our lives, he was both a bastion against the trespasses of ill fate and the predations of the inimical. (p.1)


Idealised, of course. But if you can't idealise your father, you are indeed bereft. And I write that fully aware that not everyone has a father they can love and admire and grieve for despite some human flaws, and I feel deeply for anyone who has not had that privilege.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2019/08/17/on-father-by-john-birmingham-little-books-on... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Aug 17, 2019 |
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John Birmingham's father died. And his life fell apart. The next six months were spent grinding through the dark forests of depression until he finally emerged out of the darkness onto sunlit upland. A unique yet universal story, On Father reaches out to everyone who has experienced and survived deep grief.

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