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Daddy's Gone A-Hunting Paperback – 24 Apr 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Persephone Books Ltd (24 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903155673
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903155677
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.2 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 49,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

"Daddy's Gone A-Hunting" is about the expectations of women, about a house-bound mother reluctantly (desperately) at home all day, in contrast to her daughter who has escaped, to university and then, we can assume, to a job. 'The book came out at a time,' writes Valerie Grove (author of the recently published "A Voyage Round John Mortimer") in the Preface, 'when the impact of the new wave of feminism, which would change everything under the banner of women's liberation, had not yet arrived'.In Ruth Whiting's commuter-belt village 'the wives conform to a certain standard of dress, they run their houses along the same lines, bring their children up in the same way; all prefer coffee to tea, all drive cars, play bridge, own at least one valuable piece of jewellery and are moderately good-looking.' Yet Ruth is on the verge of going mad. A 'nervous breakdown' would be a politer phrase, but really she is being driven mad by her life and her madness is exacerbated by everyone's indifference to her plight.Although "Daddy's Gone A-Hunting" is at times excuciatingly funny in its caustic dissection of the people among whom the Whitings live, it is also a profound study of female isolation.

As the critic Judy Cooke has pointed out, Penelope Mortimer's novels were 'intense, imaginative explorations of an inner world. It is an enclosed world, dominated by fear, in which physical experiences such as sterilisation and abortion isolate her characters from their fellow beings and are metaphors for a deeper spiritual isolation.'


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By London on 8 July 2008
Format: Paperback
Daddy's Gone A-Hunting, written in the late 1950s, is a deeply harrowing and moving insight into the mindset of a desperate woman, trapped as much by her class and sex as by her overbearing and critical husband. Penelope Mortimer skillfully pulls the reader into her protagonist's unhappiness and her haunting refrain of 'I don't know' remains timeless and poignant for the modern reader.
A generational difference (and the bitter note of hope in this novel) is neatly portrayed through the parallels between the protagonist, Ruth, and her teenage daughter, Angela, who is able to break out her mother's pattern only through a distinct lack of sensitivity and casual selfishness, shown through her relationship with her mother. I would strongly recommend this book on the grounds of its sensitive and deeply moving portrayal of a lonely and isolated woman. It is a book, which, although written fifty years ago, has lost none of its relevance and addresses many delicate issues, such as identity and independence, which are still being struggled with today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard Brown on 10 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback
The 1950s were dark days in the UK for many people struggling not just against post-war poverty but against sexism, racism and homophobia. This highly sensitive novel looks at the plight of our grandmother's generation who, after proving how versatile and competent they could be in all walks of life during the war, were forced back into the home to be housewives and mothers, in the days before feminism began to prise open the grip of restrictive gender roles.

Ruth, the middle-aged and middle-class heroine of this 1950s novel is being driven mad by the domestic situation she finds herself in, a situation which will be familiar to generations of women. Her husband Rex is a selfish, insensitive philanderer - he only married her because she was pregnant; her nineteen year old daughter Angela feels childishly unloved and resentful towards her; in addition, her two young sons made her husband so jealous she had to pack them off to boarding school. She finds herself on her own, with nothing significant to do, an empty-nester, watched over by an over-attentive carer. Depression descends, and in her despair she heads for a breakdown. All this is beautifully and bitingly described with great psychological acuity.

When Angela appeals ungraciously for her help - was there a more ungracious daughter? - Ruth finds a purpose in life, a means of making amends for her emotionally neglectful approach to motherhood. Much of the book is taken up with the two women negotiating the secret, illegal and tortuous road to an abortion, while keeping it secret from Rex who would have gone ballistic if he'd found out about it.
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By gv on 16 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wonderfully well written and as relevant as ever.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
IT'S HARD TO TRACK THIS BOOK DOWN, BUT IT'S WORTH DOING SO 5 May 2010
By Nelson H. Wu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Early on in Penelope Mortimer's gripping novel "Daddy's Gone A-Hunting," housewife Ruth Whiting looks at her life with husband and three children and wonders, "Will nothing ever happen to us? Will this really go on forever? Is it possible that nothing will ever change?" Mortimer then proceeds to offer an unflinching, unforgiving account of Ruth's descent into depression, her struggle for freedom from the bonds of middle-class life, and her arrival at a point where she "only just begins to exist." Ruth lives in early 1950s England when the highest achievement for a woman was to become a wife and mother. By those standards, Ruth should be fulfiilled -- but she's anything but. Her husband cheats on her. Her children are both literally remote when they're packed off to boarding school and figuratively so when they come home for the holidays. Ruth's daily life consists of shopping and chatting with other housewives. Keep in mind that this is a time and place when people didn't just avoid talking about depression and women's liberation, they didn't even have the vocabulary to talk about the subjects. In that sense, "Daddy's Gone A-Hunting" is a groundbreaking work, predating novels like "Mrs. Bridge" and "Revolutionary Road" that would come out a few years later across the pond and that would also explore the double whammy of marriage and life in suburbia. Mortimer's observations on the two conditions are devastatingly brutal. Ruth's fellow housewives are a frivolous lot and yet "a few have talent, as useless to them as a paralyzed limb." Ruth's husband is a self-righteous bully and bore. (In a conversation that foreshadows events that set the story in motion, Ruth and her husband, Rex, have a conversation about their teenage daughter, Angela, and their duty to warn her of the consequences of premarital sex. Actually it's not much of a conversation, since Rex unilaterally declares to Ruth, "It's your responsibility. You're the woman. If anything happens to Angela, you'll be entirely to blame.") Mortimer is too good of a writer and thinker to opt for the easy route of satire or parody. Her characters are real and all too flawed, and thus as relevant today as they were when the novel came out in the 1950s. (Angela, the self-centered daughter, could walk off the pages of this novel and onto the set of any of today's reality TV shows featuring the latest oblivious starlet.) True to form, Mortimer also doesn't let Ruth off the hook. "Daddy's Gone A-Hunting" doesn't end with a trite moment of renewal or redemption, but on a profound note of acceptance and resignation.
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