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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Dadland" is the best new book I've read this year

When we were running True Stories Told Live, Keggie Carew was one of our turns. She came and told a story about losing her elderly father at a London railway station when he came up from the country to see her.

That's just one of the episodes in Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory.It's about her father, who served in Special Operations in the last war. He was with the Jedburghs, three-man teams dropped into France and Burma to supply and organise partisans operating against the occupiers. These people were all brave but her father had such disregard for danger some of the others said that if they'd known they would never have gone with him. She accompanies him to a reunion and finds these elderly men in their blazers and berets are still impossible to control. It was their cussedness that got them through it all.

The book tells the story of his war and his peace, which wasn't all that peaceful. He had a lot of trouble settling into civilian life. The qualities that made him indispensable in a fight could make him a liability in a business. It's also an exploration of family with all its fascinating complexities. Most of all it's a really moving portrait of a former superman slipping into dementia.

They say what makes men cry at the cinema is sacrifice. Stiff upper lip as well. There's a scene here where she takes him to a Jedburgh reunion. His dementia is so advanced that he picks meat off his plate with his hands at the formal dinner and shoves it in his jacket pockets for his dogs. His old radio operator, who jumped out of a plane with him into the darkness over occupied France sixty years earlier, pretends not to notice.