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Daddy Reviews

Daddy by Emma Cline

Daddy

Emma Cline

4.25 out of 5

5 reviews

Imprint: Chatto & Windus
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 3 Sep 2020
ISBN: 9781784743710

These outstanding stories examine masculinity, male power and broken relationships, while revealing - with astonishing insight and clarity - those moments of misunderstanding that can have life-changing consequences. And there is an unexpected violence, ever-present but unseen, in the depiction of the complicated interactions between men and women, and families. Subtle, sophisticated and displaying an extraordinary understanding of human behaviour, these stories are unforgettable.

  • The ObserverBook of the Day
3 stars out of 5
Holly Williams
1 Sep 2020

"I found Cline’s insights persuasive, even if the territory does become repetitive."

Whether confronted with failures at work, with women or as parents, these men are usually defensive, self-deluding and numb with pills and drink. I’ll be interested in how convinced middle-aged male reviewers are, but I found Cline’s insights persuasive, even if the territory does become repetitive.

The relentless privilege on display ultimately flattens out the reading experience, interest waning as a story introduces another rich old man or media player, another private school or house in the hills.

But Cline tracks shifts in power and influence – the desire to hold on to and wield them and the pathetic “whiff of insecurity” in those that have lost them – very well.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
16 Dec 2020

"I loved this collection. "

A fatalism presides. How could anyone move through this world and come out clean? We’re given no answers, no gestures towards hope. And yet the book feels illuminating. It has respect for its reader. It trusts us to take its ambiguity and live with it. Amid all the falsity, it keeps it real.

 

4 stars out of 5
12 Dec 2020

"an unflinching collection"

In Daddy, Cline captures unflinchingly the rocky recalibrations at work in sexual cultureWhat saves the book from the pitfalls of the generic – from being a series of exercises on contemporary life – is her remarkable ability to plunge us, suddenly, into a world so finely contoured, so throbbing with specificity, that it swells and obliquely speaks volumes.

5 stars out of 5
Lucy Atkins
20 Sep 2020

"the pleasures here lie not in caring, but in an appreciation of Cline’s skilful and absorbing craft"

Some of the most interesting pieces focus on men, middle-aged or older, seen through a post-Me Too lens. Cline rummages through their blinkered psyches, exposing grim defiance, arrogance, boorishness, a lack of self-awareness and, ultimately, a weird, sometimes pathetic vulnerability. What Can You Do With a General is a standout. As his dysfunctional adult children return for Christmas, a father remains wilfully oblivious to the impact his aggressive past behaviour has had on them. Cline is particularly good at locking in the witty detail that speaks volumes, and here it is the long-suffering mother’s reading matter: memoirs by the mothers of school shooters or girls who were kidnapped and kept in sheds for years.

5 stars out of 5
Brandon Taylor
1 Sep 2020

"Cline is an astonishingly gifted stylist, but it is her piercing understanding of modern humiliation that makes these stories vibrate with life."

Cline is an astute observer of the social rhythms of the upper middle class, particularly of those in the entertainment and creative industries. Her characters hum with cranky, human specificity. They don’t feel like caricatures or scapegoats, and their anxieties stem from the particular impasses of their lives. The stymied producer with money problems in “Son of Friedman,” the idealistic young father-to-be with the vaguely menacing brother-in-law on an organic farming outfit in “Arcadia” or the fizzy, itchy sexual dread of upscale rehab in “A/S/L”: It might be tempting to dismiss these characters’ worries as issues of the first world, that set of soft-handed non-problems that accrue in the affluent margins of society. But the reader comes to feel for these people by virtue of their specific circumstances in the same way that we come to admire Cline for her encyclopedic knowledge of the shadings of wealth.