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4.1 out of 5 stars68
4.1 out of 5 stars
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This is a fascinating book. It is about the loss of Morrison's father to cancer at the age of 75. He was diagnosed late and died within four weeks of diagnosis. The book swings between memoirs of Morrison's time with his father as a child and at other key points in his life, interspersed with narrative of the last four weeks, and the funeral afterwards.
This edition is particularly good. It has been republished as a film tie-in and has an afterword by the author written in 2006 about how and why he wrote the book and what it meant to him, his family and those who read it. I felt it finished the book off perfectly and I would have felt a bit cheated if I hadn't read this section because of buying an earlier publication.
Morrison is quite painfully honest about the complexities of his relationship with his father. His enduring love for him is always clear but he never flinches from the ambiguities that love for a parent can throw up, and it is this which makes this book rise above the ordinary.
The fact that he is willing to show himself and his father in a less than perfect light makes it tender and touching and real in a way that a glowing obituary or sanitised eulogy never could.
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Arthur Morrison was not a famous man, except perhaps in the small Lancashire village of Earby where he had a doctors practice for many years. This excellent book reminds us that you don't have to be famous or to have performed any extra-ordinary feats to have a story that is worth telling.

The book, written by his son, tells of how Dr Morrisons life slowly slips away during the last few weeks of his life. Interspersed with this are the authors recollections of his father, who whilst being a difficult man at times, always remained a loving husband and father. The author is at all times open and honest - sometimes brutally so - and lays open his feelings for all to share.

One of the strengths of the book is that whilst it is about the death of a loved one it never gets too mawkish or sentimental and remains at all times a good read.

After finishing the book I found from the internet that a film of the book is currently in production. I look forward to seeing what sort of treatment it receives on the silver screen.
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on 17 February 1999
I read this book not long after my own father died and I opened it with a sort of dread that it might overwhelm me with feelings I'd rather not have, but the experience was not quite like that. Blake Morrison's honest account of his own father's death, gave me so much I could identify with, and made my own issues so much clearer. In a world where it is the habit to say what we think we should feel and not what we actually do, it is an act of rare generosity for someone to tell the brutal truth about such things. There is much humour in the book and by the end of it, I had a real affection and appreciation of that collection of ambiguities, which was his dad. Far from finding it a painful read, although there are some jarring moments, I felt a huge weight lifted from my mind. I feel a real sense of gratitude that Morrison took the trouble to write it.
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on 2 April 1999
I also read this book shortly after the death of my father. I found I could relate very closely with many of his feelings. I would recommend it to anyone who has recently suffered a bereavement. Very comforting. It is written with real feeling.
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on 24 July 2007
Morrison offers a clear and intimate insight into his feelings over the life and death of his father. The very ordinariness and anonymity of his father makes the story ideal to overlay your own father-son relationship or, as in my case, gain an insight into what you might be missing.

It is a very thoughtful book, a fine testament to his father, but also - possibly - an inspiration to other sons and fathers to recognise and enjoy what they have before it is too late.
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on 20 October 2007
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it by chance and as personal circumstances unfolded I discovered its straightforward unsentimental honest style powerful and supportive.
Consequently the book has been read and reread by all members of my family affected by the death and darkness of cancer.
It was a book to read and ponder especially and I mean this, if one needs
understanding and solace in similar circumstances
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on 16 April 2009
I thought this book was a very honest and raw account of dealing with your parents ageing and your roles ultimately reversing. Sometimes, Blake Morrison's writing is so bare and insightful it makes you slightly uncomfortable as you are offered a front row seat to his Fathers demise and death but always retains enough poetry in his prose to make even the bleakest of moments tinged with a tragic beauty.
Unafraid to share memories that paint him in a less than flattering light, Blake Morrison has achieved a very rare type of memoir, with no saccharine tendency's or obvious pulls on your heart strings, he offers his account of his fathers death with a Yorkshire mans bluntness and a writers soul.
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on 22 January 2013
Unlike most reviews I write in which I more or less say whether or not I like the book, this review proved extraordinarily difficult to write. It's a Life Memoir, a biography/autobiography of a man, Blake Morrison and his father Arthur. In criticising a life memoir you are essentially criticising the author themselves, I suppose.

Before I read it I felt like I had some idea of what to expect, a story of how difficult it is to live up to your father's expectations, how awful life with a difficult father who is somehow abusive can be. I was attracted to this book for personal reasons.

When the story begins at Oulton Park as Blake and his sister hide with embarrassment as their father bluffs and bullies his way into the best enclosure without queuing appropriately or paying appropriately, I thought this was very much the story I would read.

As it goes on, Arthur Morrison is revealed to be bluff, bombastic, something of a philanderer, and unable to stop interfering in his adult children's lives, but these really are his only crimes. He is very much a man of his time, a 1970's Yorkshireman, and nothing more despicable or insidious than that.

In the great scheme of things when they handed out fathers, Blake Morrison seems quite lucky comparatively, it seems that the worst thing his father ever did was embarrass him in front of Julian Barnes and Salman Rushdie. There are a great many people who would yearn to swap their patriarchal recollections for such a first world, privileged accusation to launch against their father. Middle class naval gazing and whinging spring to mind.

It is also clear from the prose that Blake, though often embarrassed and exasperated loved his father and his father loved him, which makes some authorial decision making all the more baffling.

Blake Morrison uses his memoir to launch what seems like a vengeful attack on the man's memory. An intensely private individual, Arthur Morrison clearly relished that he was a local GP and pillar of the community. He was memorialised posthumously with first a sundial and then a bench.
He desperately hid both his pacemaker and then his cancer from his friends and acquaintances wanting to preserve public opinion of him at all costs, refusing at one point to even allow his son in law to visit.

In this book, Blake Morrison takes his fathers dignity and not just strips it away but destroys it. He speaks of his "shrivelled penis" and changing his dirty nappy. He tells the world of his long standing affair with his mother's friend and the fact that he believes her daughter is his half sister. Whatever reputation Dr Morrison had, it was I am certain in tatters amongst those of his community who read it and a source of great gossip and scandal.

More telling than that, despite proudly displaying all his books in her home, his mother hides this one in her wardrobe, doubtless knowing how heartbroken and devastated her husband would have been by it. His mistress is more plucky and politely but firmly tells Blake that the particulars of their lengthy relationship are none of his damn business actually.

Blake speaks of how he wrote this piece in blind grief following his fathers death, and perhaps he would have done well to put it away and come back to it when he had calmed down emotionally. Writing something based on heightened emotional feeling and living to regret it is a sin, many, including myself are guilty of but most cannot boast of doing it so very publicly, and it is extremely hard to see precisely what Arthur did to Blake to warrant what actively feels like a vindictive and spiteful revenge.
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on 2 November 2013
My Father died at home with a similar illness, the descriptions of the realities of it all where accurate rather than glossing over it.... The Father sounded like a lovely man & Dad... I wonder how the Authors wife felt about it all he seemed a bit selfish however I do accept that we all grieve differently....
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on 7 January 2008
Whilst Morrisons work is a wonderful tribute to his fathers life - good and bad, this books main achievement is to make all of us children of a 'certain age' to sit down and re-evaluate our relationship with our parents, and drives us to cherish the time we have together, as life is painfully short.
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