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.