on 21 October 2004
My Father Was A Hero is more than a war story, though the exploits of the little people that together make a nation's history are not always as entertaining as the memories shared in this book. Its real strength, however, is as a study of family. Written with the intimacy of a letter, this book is touching, sometimes funny and is always unabashedly emotional and affectionate. Its characters have their own stories. But the power of this book is that, but for the details, they could be anyone's. Through war, homecoming and the effect of secrets and half-truths passed from generation to generation, it reminds a reader how little we really know of the people we love the most. I read it in a night and thought about it for many more after.
on 21 August 2010
Moreton gives a drawn out account of extracting family history from his father and grandfather thereby demonstrating one of the difficulties between generations. Much of it has to do with WWII and events at that time and subsequently, made more acute by his family's straitened circumstances. Yet his father rose above them to achieve a successful career. It illustrates well why older people often prefer their past to remain unrevealed and it shows something of men's inhibitions in talking about unhappy events in their earlier lives. It is not an easy read but an instructive one.
on 15 November 2011
An intruiging story, beautifully written and at times painfully honest, about, amongst so many other things, the challenge of being a worthwhile Dad. Covering a period from the late 1920's to the present day Cole Moreton researches the lives of his grandfather and father and in doing so journeys to and from a sparse upbringing in South London to classic symbols of material accomplishment in leafier Essex.From the particular example of his own family he is able to present a broader picture of life, relationships and the responsibilities of manhood, together with the opportunities for failure and the cost of social mobility, for the two generations before his own. On the way he is able to shed fresh light on life during the blitz and the curse of un-diagnosed mental illness.
At the beginning, and viewed from the perpective of an impatient and not particularly grateful or understanding child, the book's title seems ironic. As the story unfolds the irony shifts target and eventually gives way to a delightful and moving celebration of true heroism.
Something of a cautionary tale, this book is both an excellent (and occasionally tearful) read, but also a wake-up call to fathers and sons to talk, hear the stories of the past, offer explanations, kick unrealistic perfectionist aspirations into touch, and savour instead imperfect, authentic, work-in-progress love.