Valerie Grove

Down Memory Lane

Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory

By

Chatto & Windus 419pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

How lovely to discover a book that makes one seize friends by the lapels and implore them, ‘Read this’. Even better, to find that a son has already devoured it, and a daughter is even now in its thrall. On one level, Keggie Carew’s Dadland is a wartime adventure story. On another, it is an investigative memoir, a history of how one family’s fortunes can be sunk. But above all it is a portrait of a loveable, charming, mischievous old rascal named Tom Carew – the most vivid Aged P since Wemmick’s father in Great Expectations. Tom has a devilish grin and a knack for winning the affection of anyone he meets, from fellow care-home patients to police officers. ‘I don’t remember you,’ he tells a neighbour. ‘But I do remember your teeth.’

This darling fellow – he reminds me of my husband’s late Uncle Tony, an old Spitfire pilot – is physically indestructible at eighty-seven but unfortunately has lost his marbles. ‘How old am I?’ he asks daily. Tall, white-bearded and handsome, with a mane of silver hair, he used to be a demon at chess and poker. Now he demands every day: ‘Right! Give me a job.’ Keggie, the daughter he lives with, is driven almost bonkers. ‘There should be A Book of Jobs for the demented,’ she writes. He can’t even tear up paper or water the plants.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,