Daddy Love

Daddy LoveDaddy Love, Joyce Carol Oates

The new novel by several-time Pulitzer nominee Joyce Carol Oates should logically be snapped up by all those who raved about Room two years ago. It deals, after all, with the abduction of a five-year-old boy by what the blurb on the front describes as a “fiendish captor”.  But it will not be snapped up, or even leafed through, by most of that vast audience. Why? Because, as the blurb suggests, this is the real thing. It is unpleasant, brutal, and (again the blurb) “compelling”. No cutesy five-year-old voice here to cushion the reader. You are taken into the mother’s head, the father’s, the child’s, and yes – and this is probably the main reason why the book will repel – the abductor’s. But in visiting all these perspectives we are offered here a genuine engagement with a chilling phenomenon.  There is nothing gratuitous, either in the narrative or in the language in which it is related. There is enough to disturb and on occasion horrify, but not so much or so graphically detailed that the prurient need trouble themselves to thumb through it.

I read Daddy Love because I wanted to find out why someone would write such a book, not to mention why someone would read it. It was also a matter of trusting the author; had it been from the pen of a writer of lesser stature than Joyce Carol Oates I would almost certainly have left it alone. What I found was a harrowing but honest and powerfully affecting book. Apart from the more obvious issues it tackles, in itself it also poses interesting questions about the role of fiction. Not one for the very sensitive, but if you were happy to read Room, shouldn’t you be willing at least to try this?

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