Sunday, 14 August 2016

MY SON, MY SON by Howard Spring

This is a novel about a man who is seriously hung up on his son. Set in the early part of the twentieth century, it's an interesting window into the pre-Wars world, and reminds me how extraordinarily lucky I am to be born now rather than then. Obviously first prize is not to be born female at all, but if you have to be, at least it should be today, when you have some hope of your dad actually caring about you.

The everyday sexism is not so surprising - that after meals the women always do the dishes while the men smoke their pipes - but I was taken aback at how frank the main character, William Essex, is about wanting a baby boy rather than a girl. Also suprising to me is his bizarre mini-romance when he is 35 with a 14 year old girl called Maeve, the daughter of his friend. Later, when Maeve is 22, he falls in lust with her friend Livia, and then is surprised when this young woman prefers his teenage son to his elderly self. The son is very upset with his father, and runs away with Livia. He later dumps her for Maeve, and Maeve becomes pregnant. In one of the WTF moments so common in books of this period, Maeve then kills herself. By this point I had begun to get the swing of the general misogyny, so I was not surprised to find that the central character regards this as quite understandable and indeed even commendable.

There is also some stuff about the Irish Revolution, which I didn't quite follow, never having really understood that conflict.

In writing this I've come to realise that apparently I didn't really like this book at all. However I did finish all 578 pages, so it can't have been that bad. Also, I only bought three books on vacation so didn't have much choice. There was some funny writing, so let's end on this little snippet from Chapter 1, back when I thought I might still like this book:
What a place it was, that dark little house that was two rooms up and two down, with just the scullery thrown in! I don't remember to this day where we all slept, though there was a funeral now and then to thin us out.

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