Carlo Gebler's childhood was one of prohibitions: no sweets, no comics, no toys, no friends to the house to play, no gabbing at meal times; a childhood dominated by his father Ernest Gebler's belief in discipline and Joseph Stalin. Ernest Gebler was a writer whose novel The Plymouth Adventure was made into a film starring Spencer Tracy. But when Carlo Gebler's mother - Edna O'Brien - eclipsed her husband's literary success, Ernest Gebler convinced himself that he was the writer of her books, a strain their relationship was unable to take.
When his parents divorced, Carlo Gebler initially resisted his mother's attempts to make him stay in touch with his father. His father did likewise, even returning his Christmas cards. But when Carlo Gebler started writing, he decided to make the effort to renew contact. As his short stories and novels were published, he sent them to his father for approval. His father never responded.
In 1991, Carlo Gebler received a call from his cousin. His father had had a fall. There was no chance of recovery. He would have to go into a home. As he prepared to sell his father's house to pay for this, he discovered Ernest Gebler's diaries dating back to the 1940s, his papers, documents, court affidavits and photographs. Carlo Gebler began to explore them, began to learn about his father's life, and finally understand his character, his behaviour, his actions. He felt the very last thing he expected to feel for the man who had never, he believed, shown him any love - he felt hugely, heart-achingly, sorry for him.
This book is a powerful and personal testimony to understanding; a moving, emotional narrative from one of Ireland's most highly acclaimed writers.
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