"You can't change the past but, with understanding, you can sometimes draw the poison out of it," writes Carlo Gebler at the conclusion of this memoir about his troubled relationship with his father, Ernest. 'Father and I' begins when Gebler is informed of Earnest's ill-health and is then divided into two sections; his experiences as a child, growing up without the love and acceptance he craved from his father, and his own eventual acceptance as an adult of the man his father was, and why he treated his son the way he did.
Although other people, like Gebler's mother – the Irish author Edna O'Brien – and his brother Sasha, are central to this story, Gebler does not make the mistake of allowing their perspectives to interfere with the exploration of his relationship with Ernest. He also puts his descriptive powers as a novelist to good use in giving the story an acute sense of time and place – 60s and 70s Britain and Ireland provide the backdrop to his coming of age. Gebler's decision to include several photographs of himself and his family throughout the book ensures what reads like a perfectly crafted novel remains within the realms of true life.
It is impossible to find fault with this book no matter how hard you try. There is not a single superfluous word in the entire 405 pages as Gebler is a master of the tightest prose. Never giving way to the regretful ramblings that feature in so many other books of this genre, Gebler manages to inspire intense compassion in the reader without ever resorting to overt sentimentality.