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The Dead Fathers Club Hardcover – February 1, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The story of Hamlet is not usually thought of as one meant for laughter. But Matt Haig's able retelling of the tale in The Dead Fathers Club will make you laugh, though it might also evoke a tear. Eleven-year-old Philip Noble is at his father's funeral when who should appear but his father's ghost, who wastes no time in telling Philip that his Uncle Alan, an auto mechanic, tampered with his car, causing the accident that killed him. He warns Philip that Uncle Alan will shortly be tampering with his mother too, because Unctuous Uncle Alan wants the pub that Philip's father owned.

The solution to this problem, according to Philip's dad, is that he must kill Uncle Alan. If he doesn't do it before Dad's next birthday, 11 weeks away, Dad will be consigned to the Terrors for all eternity. Philip agrees, in principle, but killing someone, especially without getting caught, isn't easy. But a promise is a promise, so Philip gives it a whirl, in fact, several whirls. Real life interferes in the persons of two school bullies, truly nasty and perverse thugs, who seem ready to kill Philip because they think it's funny that his father died. Philip also falls in love, and his Ophelia (named Leah) thinks that shoplifting is tons of fun. Poor Philip is in over his head in every way possible. There are many encounters with other Dead Fathers in a great sendup of ghostly dealings, Hamlet-like, on the moors, and several sly references to the play. There is even a character named Dane. The ending is not pure Shakespeare, but it is pure Haig and that is very good indeed. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Haig (The Last Family in England) creatively reanimates themes from Hamlet with an 11-year-old British protagonist who is commissioned to avenge his father's murder. After Philip Noble passes his hand through his father's flickering spirit at the funeral, Dad reveals the truth: it was conniving auto mechanic Uncle Alan who orchestrated the automobile "accident" that claimed his life, and Philip must kill Uncle Alan by dead Dad's next birthday—barely 11 weeks away—or he'll be consumed forever by the Terrors. Time is fleeting, however, as repugnant Uncle Alan has already begun to put the moves on Philip's mother and has taken over the family pub's operations. In animated, adolescent prose, Philip, goaded on by his father's ghost, plots his uncle's murder. Besides the time-sensitive obligation, Philip must also contend with the slings and arrows of adolescent life: friends, girls, meddling schoolteachers, bullies and peer pressure. The plucky hero impressively navigates the gloomy, pungent waters of retribution, death and guilt, and Haig does an enviable job of leavening a sad premise through the words and actions of a charming, resilient young man. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st Us Edition edition (February 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670038334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670038336
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,622,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Loved it! Once started, it was one of those books I really looked forward to the time I could spend enjoying it. Haig's way of letting Philip tell his tale is bold and refreshing. I found the writing style intuitive rather than bothersome (and I'm an editor); it was an easy, quick read.

Haig has an incredible knack for resurging in us the bittersweet feelings and perspective of being a preteen--life's general confusion, uncertainty, anxiety, innocence and wonder--even if you didn't have to deal with deaths at that age!

While there were funny parts throughout, the chapter toward the end with the grandmother Nan and Philip was brilliantly hilarious. I would like to read that chapter again and again just for the kicks it gives on its own. Anyone who's had an elder family member in their midst can relate.

Big thanks and kudos to Matt Haig for writing this one--and doing it just the way he did.
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Format: Hardcover
The conceit of this book - Hamlet, in the form of a modern-day 11-year-old English kid - is a interesting lark. If you know nothing about Hamlet, you can enjoy this book about a troubled kid dealing with his own and his mother's grief (and school bullies), though it will seem very dark if you're unaware of the plotline to come. But the more you remember about the play, the more you'll enjoy it. You'll recognize Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, several key plot points and settings and speeches. And of course Philip's problems are the exact same as Hamlet's. I initially enjoyed the parallels, but as I drew nearer to the end of the book I got very concerned because, obviously, you hope for a happier ending for this kid. My lips are sealed at the ending, but I will say I did not regret reading the book.

Other points
- It is extremely ambiguous whether or not the dad's ghost is real. I think trying to figure this out was the most interesting part of the book. I'm still not certain. Very cleverly done.
- This is told using the logic and grammar of a kid going through a trauma. "Curious Incident" is a much better book that uses this same device. I loved that book. In this book, the run-on sentences and odd logical flow were very effective sometimes, but at other times I found them to be annoying/distracting. If you can't stand books that don't use standard conventions like quotation marks, this is not the book for you. Or maybe try the audiobook version.
- I enjoyed this book, but I honestly didn't find it to be funny. Maybe you have to be English to get some of the humor? Philip does make some keen observations which from adult perspective are witty. But there was much more tension in this book than humor to me.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I hope it doesn't spoil the story for anyone to point out it is a retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet. This fact seems to be widely known, and it was my reason for reading it. The book is required reading for 7th Grade students in my school who are studying the famous play, and experimenting with retellings. It is a fine piece of literature, although I had some problems with it.

For one, it seemed to take forever to get through, and it wasn't packed with enjoyment (like a lot of literature that ends up in classrooms). Matt Haig explored the story of Hamlet closely and with painful depth. Part of me wanted him to deviate from Shakespeare's tragic plot (and I won't say whether he did or did not) even though I was amused at how cleverly he created characters to recast in the roles. Distractedly, I imagined Haig writing himself into a trap where he couldn't stop mirroring Hamlet, and wishing he could follow another objective. Even with my misgivings, the artist earned the 4 stars.

Haig let himself take considerable poetic freedom in the layout of text and frequent absence of punctuation, which certainly required some craftsmanship. I was thrown off a little by his changes of tense, however, because I felt he must have been aware he was doing it, and I didn't understand the purpose for it. A writer with Haig's skill was certainly making careful choices, so the tense switches were a puzzle to solve. Yes, the first-person storyteller was a young boy with a simple voice, but the tense variations weren't consistent, so I felt as though I must have missed something.

I was fairly satisfied with the ending, nevertheless, but almost sensed I could hear the author say, "There! I'm glad that's done!"
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Terrific book! A modern take on Hamlet, set in Northern England, where Elsinore Castle is replaced by a pub. Brilliantly written in the POV of eleven-year-old Philip, whose dad has recently died and appears to him as a ghost. The rest, however, isn't history...
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Format: Hardcover
THE DEAD FATHER'S CLUB is loosely based on Shakespeare's HAMLET. Eleven-year-old Philip Noble loses his father in a car accident. Shortly thereafter, Brian Noble begins appearing to his son as a ghost, telling him his brother Alan had tampered with the brakes. Brian wants Philip to kill his brother.

The Shakespeare allusion continues when Alan begins to pursue Philip's mother. There's even a TV movie that's a lot like the play in Hamlet. Alan also begins to interfere in Brian's former business, a pub called the Castle and Falcon.

The similarity between the Shakespearean play and Haig's book ends with the narrator. We're not sure if Philip really sees his father's ghost or if he's having a nervous breakdown. The ghost also isn't that reliable. He keeps getting Philip in trouble.

Philip has a number of tormenters besides his father's ghost, mainly two bullies, Dominic Weekly and Jordan Harper, who refer to him as "schizo." They are relentless. They pursue Philip all over the school and out into the neighborhood. About the only time the ghost actually helps Philip is during a Rugby match.

I had some problems with a scene where Philip does an awfully advanced chemistry experiment for an eleven-year-old, but I imagine Haig needed it for plot purposes. There are also some philosophical meanderings that seem beyond a young boy. During one of Philip's emotional traumas Philips thinks to himself: "I thought why am I me why am I not a fish why am I not a loaf of bread why am I alive and most people are dead how do I know Im me how do I know Im alive . . ." That said, Haig does a fantastic job with Philip's "voice." His inability to make up his mind about just about everything is entirely appropriate for an eleven-year-old as well as Hamlet.
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