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And when did you last see your father?: A Son's Memoir of Love and Loss Paperback – April 15, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
British poet Morrison tells of the final days of his father's life.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"An effort to see death clearly . . . Blake Morrison's uncompromising honesty makes this memoir a powerful reading experience."--Los Angeles Times Book Review
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The book alternates between the present and past, using flashbacks to show the evolution of a horribly conflicted father-son relationship from the son's point of view--as both a child and an adult. In the present, Arthur (Blake's father) is a retired physician in Yorkshire, recently diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. Blake--now a successful writer, poet and critic--returns home to help his mother and sister care for his dying father. Arthur had hoped that his son would follow in his footsteps and become a physician, but the book-loving Blake had no interest in Science...and consequently became the butt of his father's bullying humor. Although the adult Blake is boiling with anger and resentment towards his father who never acknowledged his achievements, he manages to find some humor as he examines his past and copes with the present.
As the town's general practitioner, Arthur was admired by his patients and the community. They weren't aware of his penchant for cruel and abusive behavior towards his family, however. He would often embarrass his wife and children by lying his way into private clubs or events. He was a cheap-skate do-it-yourselfer, always looking for money-saving, time-saving or privilege-attaining opportunities. Arthur loved his family, it seemed, but he played by a different set of rules, even carrying on a long-term affair with a family friend right under his family's nose. Blake was already suspicious by the time he was nine, recalling how odd it was that his father spent so much time alone with "Aunt Beaty."
Now that his father's death is imminent, though, Blake questions his disdain for the man who would rather repair a broken electrical appliance than read a book. "Why had I thought my interests more important, less ephemeral than his? What could I compare with this monument he'd built to himself? What consolation can art be, what comfort are reading and writing, now that grief streams through the trees and this home he made for living in is about to become the house where he will die?"
As Blake recalls many of his disastrous childhood memories, he grapples with his feelings for his father and struggles to find forgiveness. He wants to offer love and support during these final days, but it isn't easy, because so many of his memories show his father's cruel side.
The title, "When Did You Last See Your Father?" refers to Blake's struggle to recall his father--not as a sick or dying man, nor as a bully or the larger than life figure he remembers from his childhood--but rather as an ordinary human being with weaknesses and insecurities, as well as strengths. The memory that finally comes to his mind is a day they managed to accomplish a task without a major argument...some bickering, of course, but only a little.
In the end, the story is a bitter-sweet one of forgiveness, one that anyone who's lost a parent--or dealt with a difficult one--can relate to. As Blake so aptly puts it: "You spend your lifetime trying to avoid talking to someone and all of a sudden it's too late."
his grief following his father's death. We share the author's experiences and emotions
as he watches his father die of cancer. The author also attempts to make sense of his
relationship with his father and understand the person that his father was. This book
is a good examination of the grief/loss process.
His experience is not unique which makes this a very important book to read.